Childhood at Bourne (2)

Emmie Taylor's memories of childhood at Bourne (continued)

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Kitchens in those days used to have a big open fire with a boiler on either side, which had to be kept filled with water, because it was the only means of getting water heated, except in the kettle. I think we must have had a cold water tap in the wash house, but outside we had a big tub for catching the rainwater. This water was used for washing up and for having a bath. We used to have a bath in a zinc tub in front of the fire. Washing day was a great occasion. It took place once a month and Auntie had to be up early to fill the copper with water and light the fire under it ready for Mrs Stubley coming to do the washing. As far as I can remember Mrs Stubley came to wash for us until we left Bourne. For this she got 1/6 a day.

Also outside we had a closet, which I can tell you got rather "niffy" before the men came to empty it. It was not very polite to say "I am going to the closet", one said "I am going up the yard". We had quite a big back garden with a path up the middle. On one side, opposite the study window was a small lawn, with some fir trees at the back and behind was a vegetable garden where we generally grew potatoes. On the other side of the path was a flower garden where my Father grew roses, and the flowers I remember most clearly were Evening Primroses. They grew about as high as a rose tree and the flower was about the size of a Flanders poppy, but a beautiful pale yellow, they went to sleep in the day and opened out in the evening. At the bottom of the path was a summerhouse, not with a door and the sides of the front were lattice work. When we first went there I had a safety swing in the doorway, one with sides to it and later an ordinary swing. When I was a little bit older Auntie and I papered the summerhouse with pictures cut from papers and books. The summerhouse had seats all round and my friends and I used to play there.

One of my main friends at this time was Ethel Bloodworth whose Father was the manager of the Gas Works and their house was in the Gas Yard. She was born on Feb. 29th, so she only had a real birthday once in 4 years, so when she was 4 and 8 and 12 she had an extra special party. The gasometer was in a high walled garden with great big gates and sometimes when her father was going to examine it, he would take us with him as a treat, and we felt very important because nobody was allowed in this garden.

Then there was Daisy Hinson who lived at the bakery. She was a bit older than I was. They had a shop where they sold bread and buns (teacakes). We used to go in the bakehouse where Mr Hinson and his sons kneaded the dough in great big bins and there was a huge oven and they used to take the loaves out with a great long shovel. Sometimes I went with Daisy to take the bread round in a big basket. Mr Hinson used to make us a little cob each, which we ate while it was still hot, without butter, but my word, we did enjoy it. We used to go to a Mrs Patrick's, a widow, who used to give us a big piece of home made fruit cake. I was very shocked when I heard that Mrs Patrick had hanged herself, it seemed terrible.

Along by our house was a row of cottages, quite modern for those days, then there was a very narrow lane, where there were some old cottages. None of the cottages had water laid on, so at the beginning of the lane was the public tap. The children round about used to turn the tap on, put their mouths under and have a good drink. I thought this was a great idea, but was forbidden to do it, and I got many a lecture if Auntie or Daddy caught me at it.

One of the horrid things I remember was that because I was constipated I had to take Gregory's Mixture, which consisted mostly of Turkey Rhubarb. Sometimes it made me sick, and then I had to have another dose. It certainly did me good and I must have been a bit unkind because I gave it at least to the four eldest of my children, although I had to hold my nose while I mixed it because it still made me feel sick.

I am afraid these notes are rather disjointed, because I write them down as I think of them, but I try to keep them in order as much as possible. After the cottages and the public tap and opposite the bridge that went across the river to Hinson's was Branston's shop. On one side they sold materials and clothes and on the other side groceries and sweets. I used to spend my Saturday 1/2d there very often. Two of the favourites were jap nuggets and coconut crisps because they weighed light. Sometimes I bought Lemon Kale to make fizzy drinks, but that was not looked on with favour at home because it was not supposed to be good for you. Very occasionally as a very special treat Auntie bought me half a bar of Fry's cream chocolate which also cost a 1/2d. Auntie only had 15/- a week for housekeeping. Sometimes we went down to the strawberry gardens to buy a few for tea, and the lady always gave me a few extra in a rhubarb leaf. Right in the season by buying a basket you could get them for 2d a pound to make jam. Usually for tea we had bread and butter and home made jam and home made cake. Sometimes we had muffins or pikelets (thin crumpets) or toasted teacakes, but if we did we each had one and that was our tea. If had been poorly I had a 1d sponge cake and some warm milk.

I must tell you more about the Branstons because when I was 10 Ethel Branston became my stepmother. The eldest was Annie, who had married Mr Castledine and they kept the water mill; she was really a very good lady, very religious, she taught in the Sunday School from when she was 14, until she died at 84. At one period she taught me and she was very good. I can remember going to Cissie's wedding (she was the next one), she married Bernard Webb. They were a jolly pair. He was the choirmaster at the Chapel and she was the organist. Branston's had a small kitchen cum living room behind the shop, and then at the side a long drawing room, which was later incorporated into the shop and two houses were built, one for Mr and Mrs Branston and one for their son Tom and his wife. I will tell you more about them later. I can remember Mrs Webb standing in the Drawing Room when she came back from her wedding, and I said "You don't look any different Mrs Webb than when you were his (?)", which caused hoots of laughter. Ethel was the youngest and she was quite artistic, she used to have an easel in the drawing room where she painted and later she did beautiful needleworks. I have a fire screen which she embroidered, long after she was married to my Daddy, which was shown in an exhibition at Nottingham.

Mrs Branston was a very stately old lady and used to serve in the sweet shop. Mr Branston was a builder and was a nice fatherly old man.

In our house down the Eastgate we had gaslight in some of the downstairs rooms, but Daddy always used an oil lamp in his study, but we always had to take a candle to go to bed. I often used to wake up at night and cry with bad earache and of course Auntie would get up straight away. I slept in a double bed with her. Daddy always heard us when we were up and he put warm olive oil in my ear, but one night he put it in too hot and you can imagine how I screamed but he was so upset that he cried too.

One of my very vivid memories is of the relief of Mafeking. In think it was about 1900. Everyone went mad, and the gay young men of the town lighted bonfires, one on Stamford Hill and one in the Market Place and they rolled lighted tar barrels down the streets. A new Superintendent of Police had just come to the town and he arrested about 20 of them and the whole town was up in arms because they were not hooligans, just the decent young men of the town. As the day of the trial came excitement grew, they all decided to wear straw "caddies", and as they came down the Town Hall steps the crowd which had gathered cheered them and then waited for the Superintendent to appear. He came down the steps and started to walk to his house which was next to the Police Station the whole crowd, including Auntie, Auntie West and I marched behind him hissing and booing. When he got to his front door he just turned round and faced the crowd standing stiffly to attention and then went in. I suppose really he was to be admired in a way, but he was never popular and was moved somewhere else after a short time, so you see demonstrations are not just a modern phenomenon and I took part in one at quite an early age, and quite enjoyed all the excitement.

While I was little, before I started going to school my Daddy was very poorly for 3 weeks with bad Influenza. Mrs Rylands, who founded the Rylands Library in Manchester had a Convalescent Home in the Isle of Wight for Congregational Ministers who had been ill so Daddy went there for a fortnight. When a Minister had been in her home she always sent them a good parcel the following Christmas. In our parcel there was a lovely navy blue frock smocked in white, which was my Sunday dress for quite a long time and I had my photograph taken in it, but there was also a blue reefer coat with brass buttons and I hated it so I used to make a fuss and sometimes even cried when I had to put it on. I think eventually if was given away.

Well, I have not told you about Auntie West, and really she was part of our lives. Aunty Maggie and I saw her practically every day of our lives. She was left an orphan when very young and was brought up by a Mr and Mrs Thompson who lived at Horncastle. They had a son who was a practical watchmaker and jeweller. He came to Bourne and opened a shop and I can see him now sitting near the window in his shop with an eyeglass in his eye mending watches. The shop was fascinating because the walls were covered with all kinds of clocks ticking away all with a different tick. When I was little I could not say Mr Thompson, so I called him Tommien and Tommien he was to his dying day. He had a little shelf in his shop on which he always kept a box of Fry's cream chocolates and you do not see any like them now. Of course he always gave me one when we went through the shop. He and Auntie West (who was his housekeeper) were very good to me, they used to give me a golden half sovereign at Christmas which was a lot of money in those days.

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Patrick Taylor