Hodnet by Mr. Tom Manning
My name is Tom Manning, I was born at 2, Church Street, Hodnet, in August 1910. We moved to 20, Drayton Street, and in 1922 we moved again to the newly built 10, The Crescent, Station Road. We paid five shillings and sixpence rent per week. My father was born at 1, College Houses, the home of my grandparents.
The cattle market in Hodnet was held every Tuesday, and what a busy place it was. All the livestock would come in “on the hoof”, as there were no stock vehicles in those days. Butchers from miles around attended the “Auction”, many came from London. The Auction would be in the morning, and after the London butchers had made their choice, the cattle would be herded to the loading pens, ready for the train to London. The buildings by the cattle market were used for two purposes, there was a bank in part, and a pub in the other part, a lot of beer flowed on market day.
In the station yard, there were two coal merchant’s offices, one was Jack Trevor and the other was George Gadd.
From the Auction yard to the bottom of the village, there was only one house, Mr. Fred Lester lived there. The Piece Meadows were further along Station Road. The grass grew very lush on these meadows on account of there being a very clever irrigation system in use. Each “piece” had been irrigated separately.
Harry Starkey had the garage on the Shrewsbury Road. At Lawn Cottage, Mr. Rodenhurst lived. On the turning for Telford, we called it Ffoulkes Corner, there would be cycle races. The cyclist would start at Shrewsbury, cycle to Wellington, through Hodnet and back to Shrewsbury. Crowds would gather to see the race.
About 150 yards from Ffoulke’s Corner, along the Shrewsbury road, there was a large pit, commonly called the “chark hole”. I think the name was a derivation of charcoal.
At the top of the village, in the centre of the area in front of The Bear Hotel, was a monument to Bishop Heber, four stone posts with chains; in the centre was a tall tapering stone affair with an inscription on the face. On top was a metal standard with a square frame to hold the paraffin street lights. It was highly climbable and I was only trying it out to see what Hodnet looked like from a new viewpoint, when all of a sudden there was the thunder of galloping hooves and Squire Percy appeared on his horse, whip cracking. “Come down, Come down!” I thought I was going to get some of that whip. He waited whilst I climbed down, he gave me a right talking to. “Go home and stay there for the rest of the day”. That was the worst punishment I could have been given. I went home and told my Mother. She would have none of that, and said “Out you go” and I went. ‘Just up the Marchamley road was the home of Jack Slack, and on the boundary of his land there was a large tree. As trees were meant for climbing, I climbed to the top. It was dusk at the time and I was pretending to be a cat, I was making an awful noise. The local “Bobby” appeared on the scene, and he asked those below what was going on? “He’s trying to catch the cat.” The voice of the law came up loud and clear, “Come down, and leave the cat alone”.
I remember Mr. Thomas and Mr. Geo. Charles. very well. Mr. Thomas seemed very nice, a sedate sort of chap, he lived in the house by the shop. There was a Miss Pace there, and sometimes a young man, Mr. Leslie Thomas came to stay. We always got an orange there when we wished him a Merry Christmas. Mr. Geo. Charles was a different kettle of fish, with his small pointed beard and an eye for the ladies. He lived at the first “big house” going down the village.
To the rear of the Lyon Hall, partly cut out of the sandstone, was the place where Dr. Hall kept his car. I was told that this was the place where the guns and ammunitions were stored for the volunteers in the Boer war.
Next to the “Red House”, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie France live there now, was the Fire Engine House, a manual machine, whereby four men on either side did the pumping. The main difficulty when there was a fire was catching the mules to pull it.
By The Bear lived Harry Spencer, the saddler, then Mr. Milner, then our house and Tom Morry lived at the end house. He was a painter and decorator, he once repainted the “Bear” sign at the hotel. He never did get the expression on the bear’s face right.
The Lyon Hall is next, I once played truant from school, to watch them put the roof trusses into position, it was near the bottom of our garden. Mother knew about it as a “little bird” told her. I never did catch that tale-teller.
I cannot remember what the house with the funny windows was then. Over the lane we come to Dr. Hall’s surgery, with his snuffling bulldogs. My main job on a Saturday morning was to go to the surgery for “me Granddad’s certificate”, and when I was old enough, I had to walk to Wollerton to Mr. Liversage who lived just over the first railway bridge, back to Hodnet with the money, and then walk to Marchamley to deliver it.
At the start of Hearne lane lived Mr. Hall, then Tom Beddoes, waggoner at the Hearne Farm, Tom Gregory, the Doctor’s handyman, and in the last house lived Fizzing Ridgeway, the rabbit catcher. At Ash Court, Mr. Heber-Percy’s grandmother lived. When she didn’t go to Church in her carriage, she would walk past our house, with her black dogs and her black skirt dragging on the road.
At the top of Hearne Lane was the Rectory; people by the name of Daubeny (German) lived there. The Rector, the Rev. James Sharrock lived at the first large house in Wollerton. Just before the Rectory on the left was the “Old School”. The small field had been levelled for use as a playground, I think the stones from the Old School were used to build the wall of the enlarged burial ground on the Marchamley road.
The girls’ and infants’ school was on the Marchamley road. Miss May Dodd was the infants’ teacher (she used to give me sixpence to tend her flower garden some years later). Miss Alice Hughes looked after the four year olds. The school was one large room. When I was in the infants, aeroplanes started to appear in the sky, some of them were called “Skeletons” ,because that is what the plane body looked like. One day we heard that a plane had come down in a field at Wollerton. We were on our way, it was one of those biplanes, a Sopwith or a Bristol Scout. We hadn’t been there many minutes when we heard the thunder of hooves, and there was Squire Percy on his horse, whip cracking, shouting, “Get out! Get away from it!” We took to our heels.
If your house faced onto the street and you ordered a ton of coal (£1-00 a ton), it would come loose, on a horse and cart. It would be tipped onto the road in front of the house, and you would have the job of carrying the coal, in buckets, through the house to the coal shed. (Mind the carpet).
A Mr. Bill Owen lived in the College Houses at the far end; he was an early radio enthusiast, he had an aerial half way up the poplar tree that was at the back of the houses. He called it “The Poplar Tree Wireless Station”.
We used to have processions in the village, we would get a long straight stick out of the hedgerow, and festoon it with coloured paper ribbons, everyone trying to have the best.
My brother, Dan, had to leave school in the mid afternoon, he was less than fourteen years old. He would go up the Marchamley road, turn left down Leper’s Hill. Opposite Keeper’s Cottage he would turn into the woods, he would carry on around Nico Wood, climbing gently all the time. Near to the top of the hill the wood ended, the path sloped gently down to Hopley Farm, Mr. Scott was the farmer. A little later he would start the return journey, this time with two German P.O.W.’s so he had not finished when he got them back to Hodnet. He then had to take them to the “Lock Up” in Wollerton, (this was a cart shed with a hay loft above).
We all looked forward to the Garden Fête held each year in the grounds of Hodnet Hall on the first weekend of August. There were all sorts of sideshows and games, the Brass Band and the fiendishly difficult “Hoop-La”.
My Father said that he remembered a whole train load of rhododendron bushes in Hodnet station, for Hodnet Hall.
One of our favourite games was Fox and Hounds, best played at dusk. One of the gang was selected to be the Fox, he would go off into the countryside. After about five minutes, one of the Hounds would shout “Soud yer’ oller”, the Fox would answer back, giving his directions away, sounding and answering went on until we got no answer, we would then know we were very near. After a short search, the Fox would be found.
The village pump was opposite The Bear Hotel, it used to give a lot of trouble. The plumber who repaired it lived in Wollerton. He had a motorbike and side-car to carry his heavy equipment around, the motorbike was pedal-assisted. He never had the bike out of bottom gear, and I have seen him pedalling like mad, engine running of course, to get up the slight incline coming into the village from Wollerton. I think his name was Sam Beeston.
Mr. Fred Gillebrand taught at Hodnet school, I think he must have been a bit of a sadist, he loved using the cane. My Mother once said to me “You ought to go in for teaching, Mr. Gillebrand gets £1-00 a day”.