Feb 012012

stories.sheila.006At 87, Sheila Clark is one of Scredington’s oldest residents. And she is also one of the few to have spent nearly all her life in the village. She kindly agreed to share some of her memories about the village for the community website. You can click on the photos to see full sized versions on our Flickr photo stream.

Born in 1925, one of seven children, Sheila (nee Pattinson) lived for the early years of her life with her family in what was then the first house in Northbeck. Part of the property is still there – it is now a set of double garages at Manor Farm. On the inside of the garages there are still two of the original fireplaces, and an observant passerby will notice that the central window would at one time have been the doorway. In this four bedroomed house Sheila was born and lived with her parents, her sisters Grace, Mary and Kathleen, and brothers Harold, Raymond and Dennis.

Manor Farm

Her father worked for Mr Farrow, the owner of Manor Farm, as a landworker and she presumes the cottage was a tied cottage. She remembers that at one point there were two other young farmworkers boarding with them. One, who was named Sid, had come from the workhouse in Sleaford and stayed with them for some time, becoming a friend of the family, and returning on his motorcycle to visit them for some years after he had moved on elsewhere.

stories.sheila.001Sheila remembers walking across the field to go to school in the Scredington schoolhouse. There were two classrooms, and the teachers in her time there were Mrs Crighton, Miss Needham and Miss Gurney. Mrs Crighton was the schoolmistress and lived in the schoolhouse, together with the lady referred to then as the “dic-nurse” – the school nurse who would check the children for lice, and keep an eye on their general health. Miss Needham grew up in what was known as Bell’s Farm – the house close to the white kissing gate on Main Street. Miss Gurney, who taught the infants, lodged at a house in the village and later at the Blue Bell inn. Sheila and her brothers and sisters would walk across from Northbeck to school, come home for lunch, then walk back across, and walk back again at the end of the day. Sheila herself completed most of her schooling in the little schoolhouse, but remembers that some children would go off to Sleaford or Billingborough for their secondary education.

Sheila’s family moved to a large farmhouse called Croft Farm that stood where the community centre and playing fields are now. Sheila remembers this house with fondness – her mother was very houseproud and loved the big house with its front and back stairs. Sheila remembers large windows with window-seats where you could look out across the fields. Unfortunately the property was condemned during the clearances and knocked down.

Return to Northbeck

The family returned to Northbeck. At that time, there were only a few properties in Northbeck, most of which are still standing. From the Packhorse Bridge end, Northbeck Cottages were built in 1904 as the plaque on the front shows. The next property was the cottage where Sheila now lived with her family and to which she has returned in her later years. What is now Penny Farthing cottage was formerly two cottages. In one lived the Simpson family who had so many children that the two elder boys, who were already working on the land, had to sleep in a tin hut out the back.

On the corner close to the bank of the beck where the “Sunnyside” bungalow now stands lived Mr Handley, formerly the owner of Northbeck Cottages, who owned several properties. Sheila remembers him as a good man of some importance in the village. His life was affected by tragedy when one day his wife went off to visit their daughter, was taken seriously ill, and died. There is a memorial dedicated to him, and a stained glass window to the memory of his wife and daughter in the chancel of the church.

By wartime the family had moved into the longhouse with Mr Handley, as one of Sheila’s sisters had got married and was living in what had been her parent’s house. Mr Handley had a bedroom and a day room built in a little wooden extension out the back overlooking the Beck for his personal use, and Sheila’s mother looked after him as he aged. Sheila’s family had the rest of the house, including three bedrooms.

stories.sheila.002There was another building, now the garage of the modern bungalow on the site, which housed a bath, a vault toilet, and the coalstore. They also had a clawfoot which had been plumbed in in what would have been the old inglenook fireplace in the house, which had been converted to an indoor bathroom. Sheila remembers that when they had a bath indoors they would have to bring buckets of water from the outdoor washhouse, through the bedroom window into the bath to empty. Also, whenever they had family to stay, she would often have to sleep in the bath in the room in the old inglenook!

The house now known as Northbeck House was also there, opposite what was then known as Manor House. The Manor complex was the largest property in Northbeck, and the house was originally one large building, rather than the two properties it now includes.

stories.sheila.004Over in the village, Scredington was served only by a few inns and the post office shop, as far as Sheila recalls. What is now “Stonecroft”, formerly the village smithy, had been a public house some years previously, and there may also have been a drinking house in one of the cottages opposite Poor Garden Lane. The Post Office/shop was run by the Brockett family for a number of years and was located in different properties in the village before it finally closed. In later years the village was well served by travelling tradesmen, including the butcher and baker in their vans. Many of the families would anyway have had a local supply of milk, eggs, butter and vegetables through working on the farms.

There was a good bus service from the village to Sleaford, going out at 8.30 and back at 10.00 – this served the school run – then again at 11 returning at 1pm, then finally another that left the village at 2 and would return at 4pm, bringing any children who were at school in Sleaford back home. As Sheila remarks herself, in this respect services have deteriorated!

St Andrews Church

stories.sheila.003Many of the villagers would go up to St Andrews to church on Sunday, although there was also the busy Methodist chapel on Main Street, where Sheila herself was a Sunday school teacher for a while.

Most of the men in the village worked on the land in the village or for nearby farms. Girls would go into service in the larger local houses, or work in the shops in Sleaford, cycling down Mareham Lane and back every day. Sheila herself was first placed in service with Mr and Mrs Pratt in Sleaford, after her mother paid for her to go through an agency and find a job working with children. She was employed as a nursemaid working under the family’s governess, and had a room up in the attic in the house together with another girl who may have been a housemaid. The family also had a cook who would tell Sheila stories about things in the house that frightened her. Unfortunately she found being away from home and her family at such a young age very difficult. Her mistress wrote to her mother to tell her that she was very unhappy, and her mother took the train from Scredington Station and brought her straight back – at a cost of a month’s wages and payment for the uniform and afternoon dress which had been specially made for her.

Blanchards in Sleaford

stories.sheila.005Later she started work at Blanchards in Sleaford. Blanchards was a high class store, where families would buy their goods on account. Sheila worked behind the counter, and the shopkeeper soon realised that she had a good head for figures and put her in charge of keeping the accounts. She stayed at Blanchards until the outbreak of the war, when her brother Dennis volunteered to leave his studies at the University of Edinburgh and go to war, in order that Sheila could stay at home to help her mother and father and do her war service on the farm.

It was a long day of hard work, particularly in the summer. She has a vivid memory of being on the farm putting the chickens in to roost and hearing the church at Aswarby chiming eleven o’clock in the evening when it was “double summer time”. She had to be up again at five o’clock the next morning to milk the cow and feed the pigs with her father. She also tells a story of coming home to the longhouse from Manor Farm in the blackout, with torches dimmed, and the fog heavy across the fields, and losing her way in the darkness, and her father shouting to her at the top of his voice to stop, as she was heading straight towards the Beck in the dark and gloom.

Sheila married Mr Gregory Arthur Clark from Heckington and they had 2 children, one of whom still lives in the village today. She has seen many changes in the village over the years, and still enjoys living here.

Sheila was talking to Teena Twelves in February 2012.
Photos supplied by Sheila Clark