Sheila Blankley - Leisure Activities
My maiden name was Hobbs and I was born in Stamford. My mother and father came from Sohum in Cambridgeshire and my father was a brilliant engineer. I was a child of elderly parents. I had a sister 18 yrs older than I was who married Ernest Warner RFCO LRAM, an accomplished musician. My father was friendly with a man named Fison and he wanted my father to go into partnership with him but my father decided to move to Stamford as prospects were very poor in Sohum at that time. He took a post as forman-fitter when Blackstones opened.
I attended the Fane School in Stamford which was a new school with modern ideas. For example, the infants were allowed to play. We lived in Doughty Street and we went over the fields to school where the new housing estate is now. At the age of 7 there was the option of staying on at the school, and every parent agreed except my father. He said that I was sent to school to work not to play. So I was sent to All Saints` School which was right at the other end of the town. The buildings were terrible, old and with high windows so that we could not look out and get distracted from our work. At the end of the room were large glass cases with lists inside displaying the names of those who had gained scholarships to the High School, so it was clear what our aim should be. They paid for me to have lunch in town ( there were meals at the Fane School ).
I was quite a precocious child so when I was 9 I was allowed to sit for the High School and I got in. I was always the youngest in my class throughout my school career, and in a way it threw me as I never really fitted in with my classmates. They were more mature than I was. After taking my School Certificate, I might have gone on to university but by this time I was utterly sick and tired of school so I left. During these years, I learned to play the piano under Mrs Tinkler who taught Sir ( as he became) Malcolm Sargent . I was also chief proof-reader for the Stamford Mercury for three years and later on when I moved to Colsterworth I was correspondent for the village on behalf of that newspaper for over 40 years, (except for a short period when Mrs Gwyneth Isaac took over.)
I met Mick when I was taking my School Certificate. Three girls who had birthdays at about the same time hired the village hall at Creeton, near Little Bytham, for a joint party dance. Those who were invited from Stamford hired a bus to go in, and I was delegated to collect the bus fare. I was told to collect 1s 6d from a boy called Mick Blankley and I met him outside Smith`s. He had a cub pack at the time and he was in shorts. He was 19 and very tall and I was very small I was only 6 st when I got married. I told him I had to collect his money and he said `Fair enough. Well, I have been wanting to ask you if you would like to go to the cinema`. He wrote a poem about our meeting afterwards which I have still got.
Mick`s mother, Kitty, came from York. Her father was Detective Inspector Whitaker in the York City Police. She was his only daughter and had everything going for her. However, when the Great World War was on, he was sent to Normandy as a spy-catcher. He got badly gassed and was brought back to England where he died aged 45.
His wife and Mick`s mother were devastated. Granny Whitaker, as she came to be known to us, was a Grantham girl, one of 12 children born to the Dawson family who had a market garden where Grantham Hospital is today. She decided that she wanted to come back to be near her family. Kitty went to Secretarial College. Her father had planned that they would set up a detective agency together after the war, but it was not to be. She started to scour the newspapers and saw that the shop on the High Street was available so they applied and got it. It was a grocery shop that sold all kinds of general provisions. Kitty got a motor-bike, with a sidecar for her mother, and she went round the villages getting orders.
However, she had already shown at school a great interest in acting. Harry Houghton , the butcher, is reputed to have said, ` Kitty Whitaker was just lovely. When she came to the village she was so lovely!` She was tall and striking looking. Kitty married Clifford Blankley and they lived at the shop along with her mother. Mick was born there. The family always called it ` The Birth Place` According to Harry Wilson, he and another boy were playing half-way up the slope opposite, that leads up to Back Lane, when the nurse called out of the bedroom window. He always reckoned afterwards that he was the first to know in the village of Mick`s arrival.
Kitty Whitaker`s new life was a complete change for her but she was a very go-ahead lady, and soon became a leading light of the Dramatic Society. This was formed in the 1920s by a group which included C.B.Bailey, boss of Untied Steel and Winifred Wright, who lived with her brother Cecil Wright another butcher. Winifred Wright was headmistress of Huntingtower Road School in Grantham. Her pupils included Margaret Thatcher and the Isaac brothers. Mick went there as well. Winifred was Kitty`s best friend and later became Mick`s godmother. Clifford Blankley was not interested in theatricals and never went to see his wife, or later, his son on the stage. C.B.Bailey wrote many of the plays that were performed under the pseudonym of Ferry Kalcite. His play `The Widow`s Might` (sic) had all the village characters in it though they were not named. Nevertheless, they were easily recognised by the audience. It caused quite a lot of bother in the village.
They performed numerous plays in the village hall ( the old one on School Lane) and also at the hospital in front of Lord and Lady Brownlow. Their greatest triumph was winning the championship for a dramatic production in a competition which covered the whole of England.
Mick`s great-grandmother on his father`s side was a Woolerton who lived at Woolsthorpe Manor. She was born in the study there. She married a John Brewin, schoolmaster, and moved to Windlesham in Surrey where he was the headmaster. Unfortunately, he developed tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium at Ventnor in the Isle of Wight where he died aged 37. His widow returned to Colsterworth with her two daughters, Bertha and Dora. Another daughter had died of croup. Bertha and Dora had a dressmaking business on the High Street near Kay`s house ( with the high steps) They were known as the Miss Brewins.
Dora married John Joe Blankley, the son of Benjamin Musson Blankley, farmer, of Great Casterton. It must have been a large farm as at one time they had 17 servants. John Joe was not used to working, only going out hunting and horse-breaking.
It appears that Dora met him at a dance at Castle Bytham. After they married, they settled in Colsterworth and ran the Sun Inn. Great-grandmother Brewin lived at the School House as a widow. Mr Ball, the schoolmaster, lived at the Manor on the other side of School Lane as he found the School House too small for his needs. Later, when he retired, the Church Authorities required the School House for newly-appointed Mr Harrison who was journeying from his home (Burton Coggles) each day. Mrs Brewin then went to live in one of the Bede Houses on the High Street.
When Dora was eventually widowed, she went to live in a small cottage at the side of the Sun Inn, where there is now a patch of grass. The fence was not there then and the cottage shared the yard of the Sun Inn. Dora kept chickens on the piece of land behind Mrs Deamer, and she was to be seen going every day to feed them. She never threw anything away and, according to Cecil Blankley, when he went to help clear the cottage he went down into the cellar and found, not green but blue, cauliflower cheeses! Dora broke her hip when she was in her nineties and subsequently died.
Dora`s sons, Clifford ( who married Kitty Whitaker) and Cecil set up the Gem Coach firm.
Clifford Blankley owned a piece of land on the Bourne Road and he had a house built on it. The builder was Walter Porter, who lived at the end of the houses where Katie Blackmore lives now. The house was named York House in memory of the Whitaker roots, and was built to face west to Kitty`s requirements. Two old ladies bought a piece of the land and had built a twin-bayed house facing the road. The called it Meltona as they came from Melton. They only lived in it 6 weeks as they did not like living in Colsterworth. Clifford bought this house from them for between 600 and 700. He also built the two semi-detached houses next door, naming them Ebor (York) and Alma.
When the big bus companies started to move into this area, there was not enough business to keep two families so Clifford decided to take The Plough Inn at Great Casterton. This was in 1939. Mick remembers standing under a flowering cherry tree which his mother had set, and he noticed his father and Cyril Wright talking nearby. They had just heard the news that war had broken out, and Cyril Wright said, ` Well mate, that`s that!`
Mick was 7 yrs old when they moved to Great Casterton and the 2 houses were let. York House was let to some people called Dixie, and Meltona was let to some people called Hall. He was a Russian Jew and they had a transport cafe on the A1 called The Green Parrot. Mrs Alexander lived next door.
Mick and I met in 1958. Mick lived at Great Casterton and went to Stamford School. Then he went on to Nottingham University and trained as a teacher. His first post was at Lime Avenue School at Melton. We were married at the church at Great Casterton. Actually he and I were `interdominational` in that I was a Methodist my father was a chapel steward at Stamford - and Mick was confirmed at Stamford C of E School. When two of our daughters, Stella and Helen, chose to be confirmed at St John the Baptist`s church in Colsterworth, the Rev. Pope suggested that Elizabeth, my eldest daughter, and I should be confirmed too, thus making it a `family ` occasion. I agreed to this, and Mick, in return, became a full member of the Methodist Church and a lay preacher. He had been very disappointed when, having successfully completed the whole of the Local Non-Stipendary Ministry course, he was informed that he was considered too old to become a full minister. He was in his 50s at the time.
We came to live in Colsterworth when his father, Clifford, offered us one of the houses that he owned on the Bourne Road. Mick did not want to go back to his childhood home, York House, so he chose Meltona, although it was in a very poor condition. He changed the name of the house to Rutland House in memory of the hotel we had stayed at on our honeymoon. Also, at the time we moved in the county of Rutland was about to lose its independance, so we thought it would help to keep the name going. My father came to help us put it in good order, which took us 3 months. There was a black range in what is now our sitting room It was dreadful. So we came here and Mick`s father offered us a bigger garden by taking some of the land of York House and adding it to ours, including the tennis court. Neither Kitty nor Clifford were church-goers and when it had been found out that they had tennis parties on a Sunday, a delegation from the church came and remonstrated with them. We have a third to a half an acre. York House was sold to Jim Modd who came to live there.
Our garden took a great deal of work to get rid of the nettles etc. The tennis court was going to cost 400 to put right but we could not afford it so it was turned into rose beds and lawns, and a patch where Mick grew his favourite flowers, sweet peas, and runner beans. The soil was too stony for other vegetables.
So you see, the family has yo-yo`d between Colsterworth and Great Casterton. Benjamin Musson Blankley, the farmer, is buried down there and his son, John Joe with his wife Dora, the two who kept the Sun Inn at Colsterworth and later the Plough at Great Casterton. When Mick died , he wished to be buried at Great Casterton where he spent much of his youth and had enjoyed so many happy days. Thus, the wheel has come full circle as it were from Great Casterton to Colsterworth and back again.
When Kitty died, we had the wreath made entirely of white York roses She is buried here, but when Granny Whittaker died, her body was taken to York and she is buried with her husband. Inspector Whittaker.
Bertha married Les Skillington and had 2 sons, Jasper ( who became Elizabeth`s godfather) and William. Their daughter Lucy was a superb cook. She had the grocery shop where Harry Houghton had had his butcher`s shop.
The dressmakers would be fitting someone and a row would arise over something or other, and Dora would shout ` No more fittings today!`.
Dora used to have a little black bag and my father used to come over and garden our piece of land near the river. He thought a lot of her, and used to come and visit her in the little cottage next to the Sun. She liked horse-racing and had a bet on sometimes.
Harry Houghton was like a little gnome. He wore a brown overall and a navy beret. When I came here, I was cleaning the upstairs windows when he came by in his little van. He got out and shouted up, `Please Mum can I be your butcher?` I said,` Well, yes.` and he said ` I am Harry Houghton and I used to know your mum-in-law. I have a lovely little red pole`. He used to bring me a piece of top rib of beef for the week-end, He was widowed when he was in his 30s.
He had a housekeeper called Miss Ward who was a mine of information on household tips. She was a friend of Mrs Harry Wilson who used to be a nurse. In the winter-time Harry Houghton used to be laid low with his legs. He had trench foot from standing in water in the trenches in the Great World War. His ankles swelled up in cold weather.
When Granny Dora died, she had a kettle which she kept on the hob. It was black from constant use. Miss Ward told me to cut a lemon in half and dip it in salt and use to rub the kettle. It now stands on my hearth in the dining looking like new, as a result of my following her advice.
When I had Elizabeth, Mick`s mother said go and choose a pram and I had one of those big Silver Cross prams with cream leather inside and lace round the hood and a fleur de lys in silver on it. It had a centre piece that you could take out when the child was big enough to sit up, and then its legs went down into the well of the pram. I was not very big and one day when I was pushing the pram up the Bourne Road, a man going by on a bike shouted, ` You want a motor on that there pram, missus`.
Ron Watson lived on the High Street where Back Lane comes down to join it. He was also one of the players in the Dramatic Society as was Eleanor Porter. Bert Porter lived along the Bourne Road.
Dr Stafford lived along here when he first came. He was the junior doctor to Dr Norman. When Dr Norman died, Dr Stafford took over the practice. I remember him coming to a nasty accident outside our house when a lady was killed and her daughter badly injured. I ran to cut up a sheet for bandages and someone phoned for the doctor. When he came, Dr Stafford was so calm. I remember how impressed I was with his calm and reassuring manner.