Christopher & David Stocker's memories

Summarised by Hilary roadley from David & Christopher's chat's with Peter Griffin Nov 2014 and Hilary Roadley & Cheryl Marriott in 2016

Stocker's family home, The Cottage, 1 High St

Stocker’s family home, The Cottage, 1 High St

Family life & homes

Peter Knighton Stocker (D:18 Apr 1988) married Irene May Norfolk (1907-25 Sep 2004) in 1936. They had two sons born in Harston. David was born in 1941 and lived at The Cottage until he moved to No. 5 Royston Road in about 1978 when his aunt became ill. He went to school at Sawston Village College. Christopher was born in 1945 and has lived all his life in The Cottage. He went to school at Melbourne Village College.

Christopher and David’s parents originally owned land in Hauxton, where they were going to build a bungalow, but war broke out which stopped building and the land was later developed by Pest Control. They moved to Harston in 1941 and bought The Cottage, No. 1 High Street and its garden from Mr W Graham Greene of Harston House. The Cottage was built in Tudor times, and has had later extensions added at each end. It is thought that originally the roof was thatched. It is about 400 years old, and has been refaced here and there. It has  low ceiling beams identical to those of the saloon of the old Coach & Horses. It had old peg tiles which have been replaced by modern ones.

When Mr Greene died, his heirs sold Harston House and land presently associated with The Cottage to Mrs Webster in about 1951. She dealt in property and owned it for about a year before she sold it on 1952 in two parcels; The House with its garden and separately the associated land/pastures. Dr Armstrong bought The House, but did not want the land, which was bought by their father, Mr Peter K Stocker in 1955. The “associated land” of The Cottage goes from the Three Horseshoes pub across the field to The Cottage, behind The Cottage, behind the field between The Cottage and Harston House (this field belongs to Harston House), behind Harston House and then around Harston House to a frontage on Church Street

When Mrs Webster had Harston House, her daughter had pigs roaming everywhere as they weren’t fenced in, including into the Stocker’s land. The pasture land fronting Church St that they later bought had originally had on orchard on it, but the pigs had destroyed most leaving many dead trees that the Stockers had to dig up, creating about 4 acres of pasture. The pigs also dug up the grass tennis court belonging to Harston House. Mrs Webster also had a son who was good at cricket.

Stockers Rose Nursery run by Mrs Stocker 1956-74

Stockers Rose Nursery run by Mrs Stocker 1956-74

Family businesses

David and Christopher’s mother Irene, ran a rose nursery on the field between the house and the Three Horseshoes pub from about 1956/7 until it closed in 1978. When Christopher left school in 1960 he worked on the Rose Nursery until it closed. He later worked at restoring clocks.

On the land behind Harston House with a frontage on Church St, their father Peter ran an Agricultural contractors’ business. They kept old trailers, (small caterpillar) tractors, ploughs, cultivators and carried out the work people asked for. 3 men were involved in the work, including Lesley Warren who had previously worked at Pest Control. He was very good at repairing the machinery, particularly good at electrical welding. They kept their equipment in the old Clunch block farm buildings, one of which is still there today. A newspaper advert gives details:

1955 April 22     Lime spreaders, hopper-type, for sale, £150 each, apply Peter Stocker, Harston.

There also used to be other buildings backing onto the Harston House walls where the old farm used to be. A concrete standing remains where a large old barn used to be which fell down in the 1960s, once they were no longer able to keep propping up the central beam. A tree that still remains and a brick wall topped by a pantile roof separated the Stockers pasture area from Mary Greene’s wooden (tongue grouve? boarding) studio that had a gable front and corrugated roof.

There used to be an open C17th barn that faced the pasture but part of this was later sold to the present Harston House owners (Clarkes) who bricked it in and created an entrance on the Harston House side. Stockers still have part of the building to store equipment in and have restored the brickwork and put new doors in 6 years ago (now 2016), in keeping with the original style.

Car Dealership in renovated old smithy

Car Dealership in renovated old smithy 2014

Soon after buying The Cottage, Peter Stocker cleaned out the smaller building nearer the High Street on the left of the house and started a second hand car dealership, which is still going in 2014. The small building had originally been the village smithy run by Mr Lawrance before he moved to different premises in the High Street between the school and the Pemberton Arms. The bellows etc were still in place in 1941, and when the smithy building was renovated by David in 2008 there were still visible the hand made bricks and finger, hair and butterfly marks.

Peter Stocker also ran Harston Car Auctions in the 1940s, buying the premises off Ron Bass in the High St where Frank and Neil Chapman later did bodywork. Ron Bass on the other side of the road got his land for his garage from Mr Hurrell. A newspaper advert gives details of the car auctions:

1945 June 29 Bedfordshire Times & Independent: GM Morris, auctioneer, is instructed by Mr PK Stocker et al., High Street, Harston, who are offering 50 motor cars for sale, including a 1934 Rolls Royce, Austin 7, 10, 18, Hillman 10, 20, Rover 14, Ford V8, Wolseley, Essex Terraplane, Ford 8, 10, Bedford lorries,, vans etc. Sale every Thursday.

No 5 Royston Road was bought from the Ayliffs (who had bought from the Rodwells) by Mrs Stocker’s sister, Vera Norfolk, in the late 1950’s (1958?). She opened a haberdashery shop which she called “Vera’s Boutique”. Vera (23 Aug 1904 – 23 Dec 1980) lived at 5 Royston Rd until her death. She had been Deputy Head at Bottisham and taught sewing, which she was very good at. Initially at weekends, then when she retired she ran a haberdashery shop all week, and sold dresses, from the late 1950s- late 1970s using much of the downstairs floor space of No 5 Royston Rd. No 5 Royston Road was originally a Post Office (1840s-1940s) – the area was known locally as Post Office Corner. When No. 5 stopped being the Post Office, it was moved to No. 53 High Street.

Neighbouring places

The Three Horseshoes was the first pub owned by the Greene King Brewery- connected to the Greene’s of Harston House. Sir W Graham Greene established the right of way the Stockers use, exiting by the Three Horseshoes. When the Greene’s owned that pasture field they rented it out to the Thompsons who kept bullocks on it. Thompsons also delivered coal in the early 1950s.

Fountain Cottage was once 4 cottages, with Ms Samuels living in one. Later the Aldis family lived in all of it as one cottage in the 1950s, having re-roofed it.

No. 3 Royston Road, Byron’s Lodge, was Badcock’s bakery; this was before David was born (1941). Christopher remembers Dr Cairns, the eye specialist lived there probably in 1960s-80s. In the 1950s the Ling family lived there.

No 7 Royston Road was a butcher shop; this was before David was born (1941). The village blacksmith Mr Lawrance lived here, David thinks in the 1940’s.

No 9 Royston Rd was occupied by Mr & Mrs Cox in the 1940s & 50s.

Mr Northrop lived at No 29 Royston Rd, next to the Deacons. Christopher remembers he worked at the Mill, but in his spare time he did up bicycles in a shed at the side of his house. He was a real expert, and replaced many parts on Christopher’s bike using old parts, charging very little.

Christopher Stocker Aug 2016 outside The Cottage

Christopher Stocker Aug 2016 outside The Cottage

In 1955 when Christopher was 10 he bought an autocycle (like a modern moped) from Mr Hopkins in Church St (No 37/39). Although Mr Hopkins asked £5 for it, Christopher had only saved up £2, 4 shillings but he let him have it for that amount. Christopher rode it around the pastures around their cottage.

Christopher also remembers Harrison’s bakery in Church St in the 1940s & 50s, the shoe repairer who had a small shed on the left side of Green Man Lane, the hardware shop run by Mr Collins to the right of No 29 high St, a gent’s hairdressers in 1957/8 in a little shed to the right of the Coach & Horses and the Pemberton Arms before it had the extension built on the side.

Christopher’s school memories

He went to Harston School in 1950. Miss Kirkham was a good teacher in 1956, then Mr Frost was his teacher. In 1958 came Mr Vermack who was a teacher of German, South African origins who took over from Mr Shoote, the Headmaster. He was there for 6 months and was very pro-German, saying they should have won the war! Christopher didn’t feel they learnt anything under him and was amazed Mr Shoote let him have his way.

This page was added on 28/08/2016.

Comments about this page

  • I remember Mr Vermack too. I was enjoying reading something I’d got from the school library. He ridiculed it and said I should be reading Jane Austin. ( I did later but not because he suggested it! )
    I also remember Christopher well as he sat in front of me in the classroom at one stage.
    Reading about the village has brought back so many memories. Thank you everyone.

    By Barbara Connelly (14/09/2022)
  • I remember Mr Vermack, he took my class sometimes when Mr Wilkinson wasn’t there. All I remember about him was that he was a bit sharp in his manner. He taught us a bit about Belgium in geography, and on one occasion asked if we had any questions. Graham Laman, who had a quick wit, asked ” was Antwerp called Antwerp because the inventor was a bit of a Twerp” Mr V’s response was, ” Don’t be impertinent boy”

    By John Wick (30/08/2016)

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