Betty Howat (nee Bond)

Betty Howat (nee Bond)

Memories of Ledbury.
By
Mrs. Betty Howat.

I was born in 1925 at Covender in the village of Yarkhill which is about seven miles from Ledbury. My parents, HOWARD and GEORGINA BOND had a small holding. The house had no electric light, no running water and an outside toilet. Next door lived Mr. & Mrs. PERCY DENT and Granny DENT lived down the road. We had several milking cows which were taken daily to graze on the common at Stoke Edith, or on the land belonging to the vicarage at Yarkhill Church. The cows were collected again each evening and brought home for milking. We also kept pigs and chickens.
We had an orchard containing cider apples, and I remember picking up the cider apples out of the cold grass covered in dew in September. They were packed in hessian sacks which, when full, were stitched up by my mother with a large crescent shaped needle and string. All farmers' wives helped on the farm in those days.
The house was not far from the River Frome which was prone to flood and made the road impassable, the red Herefordshire soil gave it a rust colour. On the other side of the road from the house was a field used for haymaking. I remember it being full of wild flowers, birds' foot trefoil, buttercups, ox-eye daisy, lovely pink and purple fragrant orchids and pink and white clover. At the age of five I started school and walked to Stretton Grandison School. The school is a private house now, but in 1930 it catered for the local children. I remember dinner times when we ate our sandwiches in the school room .There was a large open fire on which one of the senior children boiled the kettle. We all took a cup and some cocoa to school; the prefect brought the kettle of boiling water round, mixed the cocoa and added the milk. I walked alone to school and I remember coming home along the lane and finding a gypsy encampment by the roadside ,they owned brightly coloured caravans. By a wood fire they were carving clothes pegs out of wood which they collected. I was too frightened to pass and I stayed in the lane until my mother came and found me.
In 1932 we moved to a larger farm, the LEYS FARM at Wallers Green just three miles from Ledbury. The farm was just down the lane from the main Hereford to Ledbury road. A lot of our belongings were taken on the dray drawn by our white horse "Lassy". It was Spring when we moved and I remember the field near the house with masses of yellow primroses, white blue and pink wild violets and wood anemones, what a sight! The farm owned a hop kiln, but the growing of hops on the farm had been discontinued .
The house was larger than the house at Yarkhill. It had an added large breakfast room and also a cellar which was turned in6to a dairy. I remember my mother making butter there. She banged it into shape with the aid of butter pats. We kept cows ,so she had milk to separate for the cream. The method of sterilization in those days was by pouring boiling water over all utensils! Neighbours came to the house with a jug for their milk, and it was distributed by means of a ladle. The nearest farm to ours was BAREGAINS FARM where MISS DAW lived, or Callow Hill Farm where the COWALLS family lived on the other side of the Hereford road.
Our orchards mainly contained damsons, plums and cider apples - we made cider on the farm. The gathered apples were put into a stone trough and the horse walked round and round harnessed to a large milling stone that crushed the apples. The crushed pulp was then placed in a press which was a series of hessian mats. The juice was extracted by slowly turning the screw of the press. The freshly pressed juice went into wooden barrels. At the age of seven I was quite used to drinking this mixture! There was always a good supply of cider in the vats at Christmas- Carol singers were invited into the house for cider and home made mince pies.
We kept and killed our own pigs- I disliked the day when they were slaughtered because of the noise. Afterwards the carcass was hung up in the dairy.
I went to school in Ledbury to Court House School, run by two sisters the MISS WADES. We wore green blazers with red braid and green and cream dresses with Panama hats in the summer. The two teachers lived in the adjoining house and children's hot dinners were served in their own dining room by a maid in a black dress and white apron. The first and second year children were taught in rooms downstairs in the school building. There was a gas fire which had a loud pop when it was lit, and afterwards made a roaring sound, I was not used to this form of heating, we only had wood and coal fires at home. It was here that we recited our tables day after day.
As pupils progressed in the school we were moved upstairs to the large schoolroom. At the top of the stairs were some large blackboards with gold lettering containing the names of past pupils. There was an old stove in the middle of the room which had to be fed with coal at intervals and gave off a revolting smell! Geography was an important subject at this school and we spent a lot of lessons tracing maps. Friday afternoon was for needlework taught by a lady known as Violet Higginbotham. There was a shop in Ledbury where we could buy tray cloths with a transfer on and multicoloured silks to work with, and we were taught to darn too.
In the summer most of us went swimming in the pool in the grounds of Eastnor Castle. It was covered in weeds and brambles at one end, but it was there that I learnt to swim.
We were taught tennis and badminton and we had a long walk through strawberry fields to the courts. The reed fruit glistened in the sun, and although we walked twice through the fields we never tasted one strawberry.
One winter day we were taken to see Ledbury Parish Church. The weather vane in the shape of a gold cockerel had been taken down to be reguilded. It was the largest cockerel I had ever seen.
On Tuesdays when my mother came to market I was allowed to meet her in the dinner hour. We often went to Taylor's shop to buy the butter paper. We also went to Bebbingtons shop in the Homend for our biscuits, they were kept in large tins on the counter and weighed out according to requirements.
On Friday evenings I attended a dancing class after school. It was held in a room in the Clock Tower and was taken by Grace Dovey.
In my early days at Court House School I went on the Midland Red bus which I caught at the top of the road next to Miss Bradley's house. I bought a blue ticket from the conductor who had a tray of multi-coloured tickets. After a year I graduated to a bicycle and went down the lane which was a quieter route. I passed the Ledbury Jam Factory on my way, where I could always smell the delicious jam. Opposite the factory lived the Maddox family, Gerald, Ruth and Monica who also went to the same school.
In the farm house where I lived we had no water in the house, it came from the pump in the yard. Just outside the back door was a small shed containing a copper and it acted as a laundry room. Every Monday morning a fire was lit under this and the clothes boiled in the copper. In the kitchen was a large range, it was here we boiled the kettle and cooked in the oven. When my mother made a cake she became very agitated if a car went along the road, the vibration always made the cake sink in the middle.
We frequently went to Hereford market by pony and trap. I remember we were able to pick the fat blackberries from the high hedges, and had a lovely high view of the countryside enjoying the leisurely pace.
On December 18th 1937 my father died of a heart attack. My mother was unable to cope with the farm and we moved to Worcester, the Leys Farm was taken over by Melville Guilding. In the Spring of 1936 we moved to Worcester and lived at Rainbow Hill.
(Betty's godfather was Willoughby Cale . He was born at Bosbury in 1881 and later lived at the Church Farm Coddington.)
In the spring of 1936 we moved to Worcester and lived at 62, Rainbow Hill. I attended the Worcester Girls' Grammar School in Barbourne until was 18 yrs I did my children's Sick Nursing at Birmingham Children's Hospital, Ladywood Road Birmingham, gaining my certificate for sick children's Nursing. Afterwards my general training at The Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. Then
Great Ormond St. Children's Hospital.
Ward Sister's course at the King Edward's Fund.
Ward Sister on the Children's Ward, The Churchill Hospital, Headington, Oxford.
Ward Sister at the Westminster Children's Hospital, Vincent Square, London S.W. 1.

THE MOVE TO WORCESTER.
I was excited at the idea of moving to a city. I missed the farm, the animals and the countryside, but there was so much going on in Worcester. I went to the Worcester Girls' Grammar School which was much larger than the Court House School at Ledbury. I was able to attend the Saturday morning cinema with special programmes for children. We played hockey and netball, which was new to me. I joined the swimming club at Sansome Road .
In September 1939 war broke out. We had rationing and many foods were in short supply. There were queues at shops for food which were on points. Everyone was given so many points for a month. We salted down beans from the garden and preserved eggs in isinglass ( a kind of gelatine got from sturgeon ). No-body had refrigerators for some years and freezers were unknown.
We were fortunate that there was little bomb damage in Worcester. Birmingham and Coventry were badly bombed. The girls from the King Edward's School in Birmingham were evacuated to Worcester and the school hours were changed , we attended school from 8.30 - 1.30 p.m. and the King Edward's School attended from 1.30 p.m. till 6.30 p.m.

THE LEYS FARM.
The Leys Farm was originally called Jacob's Lays. It is of two storeys with cellars and attics, originally timber framed, but almost entirely refaced with brick. It was built probably in the 17th century and is L shaped plan with wings extending towards the North and West. Inside the building are some exposed ceiling beams.
When the family were living there in 1931 it was a farm which had mixed farming, a few breeding sows, pigs for fattening, a small flock of sheep, orchards, arable land and poultry.
The kitchen contained the range with ovens. The fire was lit by Howard in the morning at 6.45a.m. before he went to milk the cows, and was kept alight all day until bed time. There was a brown butler's sink under the window, but no hot water.
Two steps from the kitchen led into the Breakfast Room. This room was quite large, contained two black wooden corner cupboards, a long table and a sideboard. The room had three doors, one from the kitchen, one into the dining room, and one into the hall. The dining room contained a fire grate with coal and wood; there was also a fitted seat in the bay window overlooking the garden. Another window looked out on the road, and one window which had been blocked up. This was due to the fact that there was a window tax in 1697. It was created to raise money from the better off-i.e those who had more than six windows.
The floor was covered in brown linoleum (this was canvas thickly coated with a preparation of linseed .) It was there when we left the farm in 1935, and was still there when I revisited in 1989 ! There was no electric light , only the paraffin oil lamp and candles.
Leading off the hall was the lounge, or front room parlour as it was called . This was only used on special occasions or when we had visitors. Upstairs there were four bedrooms and one in the attic. I can remember sleeping in the front bedroom. It was so cold in the winter. If there had been a frost overnight the windows were white and covered with fern like patterns.
The upstairs attic room was for Bert , the lad who lived and worked on the farm. Bert was a young illegitimate boy brought up in a Dr. Barnado's Home. In 1935 when we left the farm Bert joined the army. I remember he had an enormous appetite and was known to eat eight to ten pieces of bread and butter and home-made for tea before starting on home-made fruit cake.
There was one other thing I remember about the farm; except for essential things to be done , Sunday was the day of rest, we always went to Munsley Parish Church in the evenings, it was over two miles to walk there and back. Occasionally on Sundays we played cards, but we were not allowed to sew or knit. One Sunday Gwyn wanted to make a dress for a party the next week. She took the Singer sewing machine up to the attic to use. Unfortunately Howard her father heard the noise of the machine. There was a dreadful scene- she was the most wicked girl on earth.
In 1989 I revisited the Leys Farm. It was tatty and had deteriorated. My parents would have hated to see it in this state. Mr. Melville Guilding who had moved to the farm in 1935 had died, his son had taken it over. An extension for bathroom had been built on the side. He no longer farmed, but became a second hand car dealer. The farm was derelict and there were several broken down cars in the field.
In 1959 Betty married Andrew Philip Howat.
In 1961 Roger and Susan were born.

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Email: Lionel Graves (lionel@graf-tek.com).

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