John Wales starts a walk in Colne Road, Earith and then remembers 1930s Chapel Road Earith.
He looks back at how things were:
1. Earith British School:
(The Earith British School is on the Colne Road. John Wales is speaking.)
We used to run out of school and run over there and get a ready-cooked twist, you know, and he used to put his big shovel in (the oven) and pull them out.
Miss Green used to be there (cottages next to the school) and she didn’t like children and if we kicked the ball and it went over you never got it back, so in the end the school got the local carpenter and he built a – it’s gone now of course – a big wire netting frame so it couldn’t go over any more.
Fred Rawlings, hay presser, lived between the Earith British School and the Anchor Pub.
He cut hay from a stack with a large hay knife in 4 ft squares and put a long iron rod through it and moved it onto his press.
Then, turning a handle, the cogged wheels squeezed the hay together.
Then he tied it together with thick twine, very hard work indeed. A lot of his hay went to London for the horses.
2. Methodist Chapel in 1930s Chapel Road Earith
(Into Chapel Lane, Earith which used to be called Back Lane)
I remember we did go to the Methodist Chapel at Earith, instead of walking up to Bluntisham (St Mary’s), well I don’t think the Rector was doing a thing then, and we used to go around the Chapel with Miss Sismey and Mrs Sutton and you had a card and a gold stamp if you attended regularly.
This used to be a lovely kitchen garden, belonged to Miss Parren the big house on the front.
We used to go and play croquet there near a very old red brick wall which had handmade bricks.
We threw stones at the pear tree and cut the pear off – just like that!
3. Barnum and Bailey’s Wild West Show
The next yard was our yard. (John Wales’ backyard, Earith)
I can remember my father saying when he was a lad there were horse dealers next door with all the stables and they had a horse that they couldn’t do anything with, but Barnum and Bailey’s Wild West Show was in the country and they said they’d got a man who performed in the circus who could ride anything.
So they got this man to come, so they told my father, they said; “Be out the back gates at 4 o’clock and he’s going to ride this horse, you see.”
They got on and it went over a jump, which shot the man off and killed him.
And they carried him, father went to get a ladder and they carried him away.
We used to play football in the yard with tennis balls and they’d go over — this roof and another and get stuck in the middle — I used to creep up with rubber sole shoes on making sure you didn’t pull the tiles out and Georgie Maile was there: “Bloomin’ boy, come off my roof!”
There were stables all across here and you could go down the middle.
4. The Wheatsheaf, Earith
The pub was here with a big window and you went through a door and there was the passageway and you were allowed to go through and come out onto the front, you see.
And the door into the pub was sometimes open and you could see all these old men sitting there and this copper spittoon was the other side of them and they were sitting there and of course they used to chew tobacco and then spit and this used to go right across the room — smack!
To read about all the pubs in the 1930s Earith see ‘1930s Pubs in Earith an evocative walk’.
This is Pear Tree Cottage in Chapel Road, Earith in August 2023:
5. Rose Villa, Earith:
Just past Pear Tree Cottage is Rose Villa:
That was where your (David Enfield’s) grandmother lived, wasn’t it?
I can see her standing there grey-haired.
The sign Rose Villa was painted on the brickwork.
Your (David Enfield’s) grand-dad had land down by the Gravel Pits and my father used to plough it for him in the autumn.
6. Stevens Row, 1930s Chapel Road Earith
Stevens Row was vacated in 1934/35.
They were all properties with steps up to them and they used to throw ashes onto the path to keep it made up.
Mrs Cook lived there and she always wore a peak cap.
Polly Darby, we used to taunt her and one day she chased us, Brian Russell and myself, up our backyard through his yard twice, she was in her 7O’s and still she chased us waving her stick.
We ran to my mother who was visiting Mrs. Hard across the road!
(Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge
John Wales retains copyright on original contributions).