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Early Days

I remember Arlesey with great affection where I lived in Hospital Road from 1941 to 1950. I attended the village school next to the Three Tuns pub, leaving at 14 to become a trainee lab. assistant in the path. lab. of the local Fairfield Hospital and gained the nick name, "professor" from my old school mates. Entertainment was the Cosy cinema, a corrugated iron building at the end of Hospital Road. Across the railway bridge opened out to the common where cows grazed and went down to the river to water and cool down in the summer. It was also a place for ball games and walks over to Henlow, passing a pig farm on the way. I remember fishing in Arlesey Pits as we called it then. There was an old post office in the High Street where you stepped down from the pavement to enter the dark interior. There was also the baker's where you could watch the dough being kneaded by a fascinating machine through the window. The cottage where we lived for almost 10 years had, at that time, only gas laid on, no water and no electricity. We used a combination of gas lamps and oil lamps until my father had electricity laid on. Water had to be drawn from a stand pipe in the back yard, one of two that served the whole terrace. All hot water was heated on the gas stove, whether for a cup of tea or a bathe in the galvanised bath in front of the fire. The toilet was across the yard and in winter continually had it's lead pipes burst. The stand pipe also had to be thawed out in very cold weather. Next to the toilet was the wash house where a wood burning boiler was fired up to do the weekly laundry. Hard work for my mother, but for me with no responsibilities, it was among the happiest days of my life. My school chum and constant companion in our spare time was Bill Daniels, his father at one time had the True Britain pub. Nearby industry was the London Brick Company which had several tall chimneys, none of which were illuminated during the war. One night I remember hearing a plane circling round and suddenly a terrible crash as it struck one of the chimneys. We learned later that it had been a USAF Flying Fortress trying to land at Henlow. It was completely destroyed by fire which set off ammunition that we could hear from where it crashed in the common. Sadly all 13 crew perished. I had hoped to see earlier pictures of Arlesey, around 1940. In the early days the local dialect was more distinct, but I'm afraid with travel and television, etc, it can gradually get lost.

Written by Bill Witney. To send Bill Witney a private message, click here.

A memory of Arlesey in Bedfordshire shared on Friday, 16th March 2012.

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RE: Early Days

How lovely to see someone else who has memories of Arlesey. I was born in Arlesey in 1944 in Stotfold Road. I have many happy memories of the village which boasted of being the longest village in the British Isles! Three miles long I think, I know it seemed very long when I used to walk it. I used to roam freely around the Church End area, but used to venture down the village occasionally. I worked in the fruit and vegetable shop on Saturday mornings when I was fourteen. Do you remember a girl called Davina Goodwin? Or a boy by the name of Billy Matthews? I do remember the small cinema which was affectionately referred to as The Flea Pit. The Pits was out of bounds for me, so I used to go to the lakes at the top end. Henlow Park was a favourite trip for me also. Love to hear more from you.

Comment from Rosalie Vickers on Tuesday, 22nd May 2012.

RE: Early Days

Hello Rosalee, Davina, I'm sure, was Lavina Goodwin; her father, Harold, kept the bakers and was very popular with the kids as he always gave us "a bit of spare". Not what you might expect, but the bit of dough left over from filling the tins which he just threw in the oven. I too remember the Cosy, particularly the Saturday afternoon matinees. As far as the pits go, most of us learnt to swim in the big pit, with occasional excursions to the sand pit. It has always irritated me a bit to hear of lagoons, as far as I'm aware there were the two main pits, big and little (or green and blue as they are called today), the sand pit (from which the farmer Carlisle would chase us) and Arlesey Lake (didn't count the second lake as that was over the river Ivel and nearer Henlow). What with the river Hiz (picnics at the Millpits - pits again, some sort of Arlesey obsession it seems) we became very water oriented and today, I am happiest by rivers (though the Thames these days).

Comment from John Robb on Sunday, 25th November 2012.

RE: Early Days

My grandfather William was one of a large family of 'Paynes' of the High Street. His father and grandfather before him were Master-Bakers and also in the 1881 census were referred to as Baker and Farmer. Great-Grandparents, managed to have 5 boys in succession, followed by 5 girls - amazing! I often wonder what happened to my father's aunts and uncles, but I do remember having a conversation with my 88 year old aunt Elsie. Where she had visited Arlesey, must have been in the early 1950's and she had met up with her auntie Emma or Em, as she called her. Any info would be much appreciated! Cheers, Leslie J Payne. PS. Always wondered where the 'farm' was?

Comment from Leslie James Payne on Tuesday, 26th February 2013.

RE: Early Days

Bill Witney I have included part of you story to my mum's memories of arlesey and added 40 old photos.It is on my pseudonym is arcangelolombari.I have tried to contact you hope you don't mind.I am a member of Arlesey Archive Society.regards Clive Lombari age 61

Comment from Clive Lombari on Tuesday, 24th December 2013.

RE: Early Days

I have added 47 photos to this story.Cut and paste the link into google

Comment from Clive Lombari on Monday, 30th December 2013.


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