Happy Childhood - a Memory of Wormleighton.

I lived with my grandma Elizabeth (Lizzie) Bignell at No 10 Ten Cottages from 1943 to around 1948. The houses were Estate owned (and still are) and my grandad Robert Bignell worked at the manor house first as a shepherd and then in his later years as a gardener. My mother was "in service" at a large house in the village which I think was owned by a family called Passmore. Three of my grandmother's sons were away in the war and they all came home safely. There was Sydney, who was in the Navy, Robert in the Tank Regiment and Frederick who was a Paratrooper. I actually remember them all being de-mobbed after the war and coming home. The village had a shop, post office, school, police station complete with village bobby. During the war years the village was pretty much self sufficient. Everyone had an allotment growing their own veg. All of the Ten Cottages had a pig sty and of course with a lot of locals working on farms, meat, eggs, poultry were plentiful. On top of that my grandad had apple and pear trees, gooseberry, redcurrant, and blackcurrant bushes. We literally wanted for nothing! Some names now that I can recall - and we are talking more than 60 years ago, so if they are a little off the mark you must make allowances. There was Michael (Toffee) Gilbert. Ronnie Owl and his dad who lived in the watchtower, Johnnie Heritage who had an enormous house on the other side of the hedge adjacent to grandma's. I think he either bred or raced horses. There was Pauline Cage and her mum Lil (Tiger) who was tone deaf and always had a cigarette dangling from her mouth. Mr Budd? who was the local pig slaughterer and came on his bike from nearby Upper Boddington. The cottages had no running water, this was carried from a pump which always seemed to me to be a considerable distance from my gran's house, no inside toilet, so we had the chamber pot under the bed (lovely!) and if we wanted to go during the day we had a toilet outside which consisted of a sheet of timber with a hole cut out in the middle and underneath the very necessary bucket to catch the waste. This was emptied on a regular basis by some very cheerless individuals who clearly would have preferred employment elsewhwere. In the toilet on a nail in the wall, were squares of newspaper with a string threaded through. I don't think Andrex had reached the more remote villages at that time. Today we often talk about the safety of our children and not letting them out of our sight because of the many sick individuals who are at large. My memories are of halcyon days leaving home at around 9 am armed with jam sandwiches, cake and a bottle of water in a carrier bag. We would walk for miles, by the Oxford canal or go fishing down at Washbrook pool, pick huge field mushrooms and probably return home around 4.30pm. Our parents never worried, or at least never seemed to - different days though! In the winter we would go sledging behind Blacksmiths Hill, and isn't it strange, as a child you never felt the cold. This particular hill was quite steep and it had a huge hump in the middle about halfway down and the very brave amongst us would head for it, only to be thrown off in to the air. I remember a converted coach/bus that was used as a mobile fish and chip shop and came to the village once a week and parked by the Stop Bank? (a triangular green area with trees where the once a week bus to Banbury would stop). What a treat that was! In 1953 I joined many of the villagers at a large house opposite the old school, to view the Coronation of the present Queen. It was shown on a very small black and white TV with the chairs laid out cinema style. Such excitement! My mother never owned a TV until 1960. I was in the village very recently (my brother lives there) and my mother is buried in the village churchyard. Sadly the old manor house is desperately in need of a huge injection of cash, it is a bit of an eyesore actually. The old cottages at the bottom end of the village have been dropped and a rather palatial dwelling has taken their place, further detracting, in my view anyway, from the quaintness of the village. The Ten Cottages in the village centre still retain their charm, probably because they are Grade 1 listed and no alterations can be made to them. The impression that one gets now is of a village that "used to be" and by that I mean it once was a thriving busy little community that had a purpose. Now all you see sre people who live there because it is quiet, and its pleasant to come home to after the commute to Warwick, Coventry, Leamington or wherever their employment takes them. I have lived in the North of England for the past 30 odd years, and although I have fond memories of Wormleighton, I have never felt the urge to go and make my home there or in that vicinity. It's sufficient for me to visit, remember, and go home. However, for those of you who may be reading this and have never visited Wormleighton, I urge you to do so if you get the chance, you will be pleasantly surprised.


A memory shared by Geoff Taylor on Sep 19th, 2008.
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