My Early Days in Hodnet by Barbara Evans
I was born at Ashleigh, Victoria Road, Meole Brace, Shrewsbury. I was only a few weeks old when my mother brought me to live with her sister, at The Firs, Stoke Park. When I was nine months old, my mother went to Stockport to learn the hotel trade. I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Tinsley at number 3, The Council Houses, Cotton Road, Hodnet. This was later to become 66, Station Road, Hodnet. I now live at 65, Station Road, Hodnet, right next door to my old home.
I started school in Hodnet when I was five years old. The classrooms are now private houses by the Marchamley road. The Headmistress was Miss Milner. The boys’ school was by the Hearne Lane.
Christmas at Hodnet school stands out in my mind, Mr. and Mrs. Heber-Percy would come to the school in October, and ask us all to tell our teacher what we wanted for Christmas. They would then go to London and buy each and every child in the school a present. I remember one year I asked for a manicure set. At the school Christmas party I was given a beautiful satin-lined box. It contained little pots, scissors, nail files and emery boards.
The school party was held in the Lyon Hall and Hodnet Hall footmen waited on the tables. I can not remember what we had for the main course, but the Christmas puddings were brought into the hall by the footmen, and they were all lit up and flaming.
After the tables were cleared we would play games and then, to our great excitement, Father Christmas would arrive.
For many years we pondered on who it could be, and then we found out it was Dr. Harvey; he would call our names out after he had found our present under the Christmas tree. At the end, flowers would be presented to Mrs. Heber-Percy.
We held domestic science classes every Wednesday in the W.I. cottage. This is now part of the Doctor’s surgery. The class was held from 9-15 a.m. until 3-30 p.m.. The teacher’s name was Mrs. Gavin.
I left school at fourteen, much against my Mother’s wishes I might add, and went to work at Ewbank’s in Market Dray ton. I was only there for about four months, because I fell down the cellar steps and hurt my back. I then went to work at Thomas and Charles shop in Hodnet. The business was owned by Mr. Rysley from Preston. The premises belonged to his sister, Mrs. Charles, later to become Mrs. Cooke.
On the ground floor of the shop we sold shoes, haberdashery, ladies’ and children’s clothes and there was also a gent’s outfitters. Upstairs we sold linoleum, rugs, bedding and fancy goods.
On the last Saturday in each month, Hodnet Charities paid the widows who were living alone ten shillings (50p); for those who lived with their family, they received five shillings (25p). This was distributed from Thomas and Charles shop.
During the war I joined the National Fire Service. We had to sleep at the fire station two or three nights a week, between the hours of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m..
There were Italian prisoners of war at Weston. Every morning they were brought by lorry to the village; local farmers would then collect them for work on the farm. They were then returned each evening to the village and from there to Weston.
After the Italians left, German prisoners came to Weston. On a Sunday afternoon, my friends and I would cycle to Weston and torment the prisoners by goose-stepping along the drive bordering on to camp. Sometimes a prisoner would run at the fence, shouting at us. We would jump on our bicycles and peddle like the wind back to Hodnet.
Mrs. Heber-Percy held a youth club for girls in the dining room at Hodnet Hall. Dancing teachers would come and teach us how to tap dance. Mrs. Heber-Percy would organise charity shows in the Lyon Hall. I remember one show was called “The Fleet’s In”. Our costumes were made out of crepe paper.
Nearly every night of the week a dance was held at the Lyon Hall.
At the assembly rooms at The Bear, Ensa shows were held once a fortnight, on a Thursday evening.
At the Old Rectory, the Girl’s Friendly Society was held every Saturday morning. It was run by Mrs. Whitfield, from Wollerton. If it was a sunny day, the Rev. Parsons would ask us if we would like a game of croquet on the Rectory lawn.
About once a year, a circus would come to Hodnet. The Big Top would be put up on the field opposite The Crescent, Station Road. Travelling actors would also visit the village. They would perform exciting plays in the Lyon Hall.