The Old Days by Mr. Sid Gough
Many years ago, when the trains came to Hodnet Station and before water was on tap and piped into the house, most of the shops and houses were lit by paraffin oil lamps.
Mr. Jack Trevor was running a coal business from the railway sidings, in the very spot where coal is still bagged and sold to this day. On the opposite side of the railway line was the Signal Box, where the man would cut your hair if the lines were not too busy with trains.
I can recall the time when we required water for the bakery, someone had to go to the village pump in the square opposite The Bear and carry water in buckets. I can also remember the drilling of a well or borehole near to Paradise Lodge, and the building of a holding reservoir in the fields at the top of the hill, overlooking the village. At first, water was from taps which were spring-loaded, press and the water came out, it saved a lot of time pumping.
The village had two places of worship. One was the Chapel in the main street. The other was St. Luke’s Church, in Church Street. In the square lived the cabinet maker, Mr. France, who, with his two sons, did many other woodworking tasks. They were the local undertakers, making coffins and conducting the usual arrangements. Mr. France was a very experienced cabinet maker and did a lot of repairs to the Church furniture.
The paper shop in those days was run by Mr. Zumbrunnen, a jolly fellow who was known locally as Fritz. I believe he was a very good tennis player. The tennis courts were on the recreation ground by the swings.
The village in those days had two butcher’s shop. The local animals were killed and sold on the premises. Mr. Chidler owned the one butcher’s and Dodd and Morris the other. The garage was run by Mr. Starkey; he would repair your car and charge your batteries, which were needed for the wireless sets. Half-way up the main street was the hairdresser’s, Mr. Huxley. At the other end of the row of houses was the chemist’s, Mr. Marsden, I think.
By The Bear Hotel was the saddler’s, a Mr. Spencer; he did repairs to saddles and harnesses. On the opposite side of the road was Thomas and Charles, and further down the road was Mr. Astley, the painter and decorator, further on still were two houses with a passage built between them; this was where the Boot and Shoe repairman lived, his name was Mr. Andrews. Returning back up the Drayton Road, Dr. Hall had his surgery. Down the narrow road by the Doctor’s was the Blacksmith’s, a Mr. Ridgeway, he would let you watch him make horseshoes for the carthorses. When the village pumps went wrong, he would take out the pump rods and mend the “clack”. This was a leather flap which raised the water from the well. Mr. Ridgeway would sometimes conduct a service at the Chapel in the main street.
The village was more or less a self-contained community, with three grocery shops, two of which were baker’s.
As a child I remember a large heavy object was brought by train to Hodnet station. A group of men with a large flat cart with two horses pulling it came from Marchamley to collect the object. Loading it onto the cart was quite a feat in itself. When it came to the steep part of the main street, the two horses could not manage to pull this heavy load. The man in charge used some strong words and was hitting the horses with a stick. People soon gathered to see what was going on. Someone put bricks behind the cart wheels, so the horses could have a rest. After a lot of talking and shouting they tried to move again, but the horses could not get a grip on the road surface. Someone brought an extra horse and harnessed it to the other two, eventually off the cart went up the Marchamley road.
When I was a school lad I dropped in for a little job, I pumped the organ bellows for an hour or so on a Saturday morning, I think the young lady came from Hinesheath. When I was older and able to ride a bicycle, I was given a bicycle with a carrier on the front. I could then deliver the bread around the village. Whilst delivering in the village one day I noticed a fire in the thatched roof of the middle house of the three black and white houses by the Lyon Hall. I rushed to ring the tenor bell at the Church, which was the fire alarm in those days, as it happened, the fire engine was housed opposite, although the fire-crew were quickly on the scene, all three houses were gutted. It was thought that the fire was started by a spark from a passing Sentinal waggon, these waggons were steam driven, so they required a coal fire to keep the supply of steam up. Shortly after this incident the local firemen received a motor pump, which was towed by a small lorry.
As part of a group of lads who in those days attended the local school, we were all quite familiar with the country ways, such as knowing in the springtime where to find bird nests, later in the year the sport of running rabbits when the farmer was harvesting the corn. In the autumn we knew where to find the best walnuts, sweet chestnuts and hazelnuts. It was very risky at times trying not to be caught on these escapades, but it was great fun.