Picture of St Mary the Virgin, Gamlingay

Gamlingay History

Over forty years ago I remember ...

Article from the Gamlingay Gazette

Mr N J R Empson has sent us some memories of his early days in Gamlingay. These may strike a chord with some of our older residents.
"Over forty years ago, I remember..."

Mr Freddie Sharp's dental surgery in the front room of Mrs Cade in Church Street, and watching the join of the curtain wire type power for the drill go round and round!

Running round the fence which surrounded the house "Crossways" before they removed it to aid the war effort.

Pulling Phyllis Cade's pigtails.

Putting the buck in with Frank Arnold's doe rabbit.

Putting a hole through Ethel Arnold's washing with my air gun.

Riding into the full to the brim Pit on my trike and being rescued by Dad, who waded in fully clothed.

Playing with Monni and Norman Cope and Audrey Clayton in the Cope's front room on wet days.

Winning at the age of seven a book for handwriting given by a national newspaper and having it presented by John Daly, headmaster, on March 6th 1939.

Nissen huts full of ammunition along the Waresley Road, and Ferret scout cars, Bren gun carriers and tanks parked in the village, which broke up the pavements.

Going to ENSA Concerts at the Conservative Club and also seeing Sgt Nat. Gonella of the RAF and his band playing there for a dance.

French Canadian airmen from Gransden Lodge airfield fighting in the Hardwick Arms and one being smashed through the glass door!

Cycling to Gransden Lodge and going to the camp cinema.

Blossom Hodge sitting on her doorstep making lace whilst Charlie Bird repaired shoes next door, always with a mouth full of tacks!

Lace is still made in Gamlingay

Bill Cracknell going to work each morning in his Ford lb Popular and often buying a two gallon can of unleaded petrol for the stationary engine at his coachworks in Waresley Road where he had no electricity, and then returning home in the evening to run the Rose and Crown on the Cross. Harris' Fair at the Fairground field between the School and the Chapel. The field had a ditch through the middle.

Taking old clothes to the rag man and getting a 2" goldfish in a jam jar as a reward.

Collecting bubble gum wrappers and redeeming them for lead button-hole badges at Donkey Housden's in Church End, and the old 1920s bus which served as a shed in his yard, and another which was a tool-shed down a lane off Cinques Road opposite George Roberts' house.

The steam-powered bus which collected ladies from the area to work at Chivers' jam factory in Histon.

Buying rationed chocolate from Archie Fowler in Church Street.

Being shown what a Lee-Enfield rifle could do by a soldier who shot at a tree near the wood and the sap running out of the exit hole of an 18" trunk!

The Mustang that crashed at Tetworth Hall one Sunday afternoon when we were swimming at Belle Vue, killing the pilot and Derek Gore's dad who was in a cottage nearby having an afternoon nap.

The Thunderbolt which belly landed on Fuller's Hill. The searchlight camp being bombed at Little Heath.

The crashed Stirling which lay for months over the railway line at Long Stowe, and collecting charred pieces oi maps of Germany.

Stirlings lined up along the Cambridge Road at Bourn. Tiger Moths doing circuits and bumps at Caxton Gibbet. Vl bombs flying over, usually at night.

Seeing a Mosquito crash near Hatley, killing its Polish pilot.

The windy day that tore loose a barrage balloon from Cardington, which left destruction in its wake from the trailing cable. It brought down `Diffo' Daniels' chimney next to Charlie Careless' shop. A proud Mark Dickerson when he bought his new Ferguson tractor. And his Bean hoeing machine, powered by a Ford 8 engine.

The snow of 1947 with 20' drifts. Ernie Gore pulling the wooden V shaped snowplough with his very old Fordson tractor.

Old Jakins pushing loads of snow in his green dustcart with three wooden wheels to the Pit to await the thaw.

Ice skating one morning along Mill Street.

Harry Jarvis, who bought a brand new Commer 7 ton lorry, only to get a cracked engine block during the big freeze.

Ice skating on the fishpond in Waresley Park.

Sammy Jakes, who, at about 4'6" always pushed his bike to and from the Cinques.

Reg Roberts, who always fascinated us by the way he rode his bike with one leg.

The old square-shape Citroen of Prince Nicholas Galitzine, a Russian exile, who lived at the Red House, Waresley. (no longer red).

King Peter of Jugoslavia and Queen Marie, his mother, who lived at Great Gransden during the war years, after being exiled by Marshal Tito.

Going to Biggleswade on a Wednesday or St Neots on a Thursday on a bus driven by its owner, Mr Omar Bartle of Potton. And Omar's hat, a battered felt trilby.

The lovely smell of Billy Gilbert's corn and fodder shop in Mill Street, later occupied by Len Green (who used to make `traffic light' puff pastry cakes with strawberry, apricot and greengage jam) after Billy Gilbert died.

The re-appearance of white bread after the war from William Watson in Church Street and Freddie Siggs who used to deliver it in Watson's pony and trap.

Mr Hales, who delivered milk from a churn on a small cream-coloured cart drawn by a donkey. Saunders shop in Mill Street, with groceries on the left, with big, black tins to hold rice, tea etc, and Maurice joking whilst he turned a perfect paper cone bag on his hand. Haberdashery was on the right, with all kinds of dusters, clothes and hob-nailed boots hanging over the counter, and, of course, those natural leather football boots with studs made from layers of leather, held on by three nails.

The shop-fittings were in beautiful polished mahogany.

Wally Jones, who drove R & H Wale's lorry during the war years and who married Molly Saunders.

The aptly named Derek Carter, who drove R & H Wale's van later on. Not to forget Mr Savage, who had a similar shop in Church Street and a Bedford van for deliveries driven by Bill Abbott.

The cycle shop in the hut at Honey Hill.

The very upright Revd Redfern and the Baptist Sunday School which I attended twice to get stickers of bible scenes!

Going to the Conservative Club on a sunny spring evening with them and enjoying a Wells and Winch Golden Lemon drink and a packet of Smith's Crisps with the proper twist of blue paper holding the salt, and being served by Tom Tofts, who lost his left arm at the elbow in the Great War, but could do the most intricate of jobs, including filling his long-stemmed pipe!

Attending the occasional dance in aid of party funds with the Gamlingay Trio of Stanley Cross on piano,

Vic Hughes on accordion and Joe Fuller on fiddle. And the lovely smell of the club, of wood, Tom's pipe smoke, usually Cut Golden Bar (Jack Albone smoked Condor Cut Plug) and beer.

Later, when Jock Giles became barman, attempting to play snooker, without much success! Another amputee of the Great War, Mr Bill Theobalds, who had a three wheeled invalid carriage operated by a push-pull tube with a hand-grip brake on each side, which must have given him the upper torso of Tarzan. He repaired boots and shoes. After the second world war, Les Barford came home with an artificial leg and was able to walk very well and drive too.

The village was buzzing too when the Far East POWs began to arrive home, and I remember the happy tears of that time. I was 13 by then.

The cows being driven up Green End to be milked by Moo Gillett. You could set your watch by them.

Taking a can to collect milk from Pete Knibbs' dairy door. And the 1/3 pint milk in bottles with cardboard tops. You could put a straw through the centre, which he delivered each day to the school. I hated it and even more so when it was warm.

The cod-liver oil & malt in a large jar which Diffo Daniels gave by the spoonful to those he felt needed it.

Barclay's Bank, every Tuesday morning in the front room of Mr Ruben Cade's house opposite the Church. And Margaret Minney next door, who cut men's hair, singed the ends, thinned out with pinking shears, shaved, trimmed beards and squeezed blackheads as required!

And Vi Swift, a London evacuee, who had a ladies' hairdresser's in the shop to the left of Ken Worboys' Garage, later to be a TV and radio shop.

Mrs Tott, who had a sweet and greengrocery shop further down Mill Street. And Nellie Bedford, who had a similar enterprise right opposite.

The outings which Nellie organised to such exotic places as Clacton and Hunstanton after the war, c.1946/7, using Omar Bartles or Safford's coaches

Not to mention the Hardwick Arms outings which Ted Hayes organised. The coach springs sagged from the weight of the twenty wooden crates of beer, enough for eight pints each!

At that time the pub had a painting of hooded crows in circles at each end of its name supplied by Royston Fine Ales, the pub's brewer.

Willie Cook from Cinques Road pretending to be drunk when you knew he was not!

Joe Leonard, whose glass eye dropped out and smashed into a thousand pieces as he stood at the Cross one Sunday, a popular meeting-place in those days. Joe lodged with Sailor Bill Jarvis, who lived next to Blossom Hodge in Church Street.

Brother Bill making a festoon of lights to hang around the Cross and putting a loud-speaker in a bedroom window of the Hardwicke Arms on VE Day ready for a knees-up in the evening.

The bonfire in the Pit and Canadian airmen firing Verey Lights into the sky. They also fired them into two of Harold Jefferies' corn stacks at Fuller's Hill farm and set them alight.

Street lights going on again. The one at the Cross was suspended from cables between George Radwell's and the Rose and Crown.

The very large keep left sign being put in place at the Cross.

The smell of horses being shod at George Lawmans'(?) blacksmith's shop next to the Almshouses.

Craftsman Ralph Norman cycling to work at George Wright's where he was a sign writer.

Watching George Wright put a red-hot metal tyre onto a wooden cart-wheel which he had just made and the steam as it was plunged into water to shrink it on. His helper was Herbie Housden.

Buying my first ice cream since before the war at Charlie Careless' and the Standard Fireworks on top of the fridge in October - Little Demons best! Collecting "Aeroplane Spotter" from Walter Hughes every other Thursday, price 3d.

Collecting Great Crested Newts from the Pit and sticklebacks from the brook by the carrot washer. Ken Hughes falling in and being afraid to go home!

The smell of jackdaws' nests in old oak trees along Bankside and the owls' nest one year in the onion loft along there.

Whatever became of Mazawatee Tea and Palethorpe's Sausages which were advertised with enamel panels on every local LMS station?

Harold Jakes driving the Summerlite van around the villages and selling everything from candles and buckets to paraffin.

Dear old Harry Gifford who worked very hard delivering the output from dairy farm cowsheds to local market gardeners to increase their production, in his ex-military Fordson lorry.

Ernie Gore, who used to leave his Fordson tractor outside the Hardwick Arms at lunch time with the engine running. Ted Hayes was the landlord. Bill Rigeley's watch repair service in Green End

Watching the pulse in Bill Rigeley's temple where he was wounded in the Great War. He was taught watchmaking by the rehabilitation services.

Thank you, for taking the time to recall and record all these snippets. I am sure many of the readers of this page have enjoyed these recollections.

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