Janet Bennett memories
Written by Janet Jul 2018
Living in the Pest Control houses
I lived at 80 High St (now 108), Harston between 1946/7-1954 in one of three pairs of semis built for Dr Walter Riper who started Pest control. My father, Alan Hill worked at the Hauxton Works.
The houses were new and to begin with there were no fences so we children played in the Nissan hut at the bottom of some of the gardens (no main drainage either- cesspits at bottom of gardens- drains to cesspits at angle so ours went into cesspit next door who had two on their land. The houses had been built on the site of an old house that had been pulled down; they were for ‘agricultural workers’ (employed by Pest Control) to get round planning regulations.
Our house at one end of the row had a larger garden with a brick area on which we played- may have been the kitchen of the old house (once had an iron stove that was removed), two lovely old sheds, (earth floors, pantile roof), one for coal (smaller & open on one side), the other in which we kept the bikes, tools, etc., and where we used to play.
Our next door neighbours were the Green family. Mr Green flew spraying helicopters, a novelty then. In the next pair were the Jones family (boys- Anthony? Warren) and the Allans; the last two were the Pounds (children Bernice and Barry). Mr Pound was a ‘boffin’ (looked the typical scientist – receding hair & glasses- later moved to Hauxton Gap), then the Alexanders, children Jill, David and Susan. All fathers were employed by Pest Control- later Fisons.
Next to the ‘pest houses’ was a car auction (which could be noisy), then two caravans appeared on land there, where the occupants lived for about two years then, after Janet’s family moved away, they built two houses.
My sister was born in May 1947. Nurse Fitt was the midwife/district nurse. My mother helped at the baby clinic held in Newton Village Hall, giving out orange juice and cod liver oil.
The winter of 1947 was very cold and there were gravel pits between Harston and Hauxton; the gravel pits froze and people went skating.
The village school took children from 5-15 years of age (some rather rough boys) and outside ‘earth closets’ so my parents decided I should go to a little private school across the road ‘Beechcroft’ run by Mrs Ceilia Kendon. Her husband frank, was editor of The Cambridge University Press. Mrs Kendon was a Froebel trained teacher. She had started the school for her own children- Adam, Alice, Andrew and Adrian – in her own house. There was a schoolroom across the way/ in the garden- not attached to the house. It had two rooms –younger children sat on cushions on the floor in one. The older children had tables in the dining room to work on. It was a small school, at a guess about twenty children. It was such a happy place and I’m sure it influenced my desire to become a teacher. We used to go down the Drift (lane opposite) to a field with cowslips in it which we used to pick. On mid-summer day Ceilia Kendon would create a circle of cushions there where we would have our snack. Ceilia’s birthday was in Februrary and she always held a wonderful themed party for we children. Everyone wore fancy dress, one year nursery rhymes, another year flowers, I think.
When we were at Beechcroft various other people came to help, some were Ceilia’s friends, some students – girls- I remember one taught dance- maybe in holidays and I remember Mrs Ripper trying to teach me to write ‘2’. Ceilia was a very busy person and even cooked meals at school for us children every day, as well as running the house and looking after the garden, although she did have a gardener called ‘Norkey ‘.
The names of some of my class were:
Andrew & Adrian Kendon
Judith & Anne Hurrell (from Newton)
Martha & William Hurrell (cousins)
Nicola Townley (father was a doctor)
Catherine & Vanessa Ripper (daughters of Dr Ripper)
For several reasons, by the time two of Ceilia’s older children had left, and after I had been at Beechcroft for 2-3 years, the school moved to Park House further along the High Street, home of Col. and Mrs Hurrell, Martha & William. It maintained its happy atmosphere. In Park House the school was upstairs in their children’s previous playroom with another room next to it and a cloakroom downstairs.
When I was 9 my father decided I should go to a ‘proper’ school instead of learning about ‘fairies’, etc. A friend in the village, Janet Askham- daughter of the Vicar, went to Great Shelford C of E School; she cycled there and I went with her. A year older than me, she left a year before me and I cycled alone until my sister joined me there.
We left Harston on November 5th 1954 but I stayed as a ‘boarder’ with Ceilia Kendon to finish the term at the Perse.
Shops & businesses
The Post Office was run by Joe Goode and his wife. Burls- the sweet shop- was where the Post Office/shop is now.
Miss Jackson was the hairdresser (small wooden building opposite the village hall). I think we all had the same kind of haircut?
Ron Bass had a garage just along from Beechcroft. Jim, a mechanic, worked for him and rescued my sister when she and her bike went in the ditch outside the Alexander’s house.
There was another garage (where the Porsche/Aston Martin is now) run by Sarah Roddis’ father I think.
At the Newton end of the village was ‘Stockers’; he sold second hand cars; we bought our Rover 12 from him.
Village life and people
There was a riding school next to the Police House. The policeman was very kind and said we children may ride our bicycles on the pavement rather than on the A10.
In Newton Road (Station Rd) lived the Hays family. They had a riding school, I think.
Premier Travel buses were in a yard near the (old) Post Office. We used to go on a different red bus to Cambridge which had 4 seats across it ( no central isle) that went to Drummer St when we went to shop in Cambridge.
Sometimes the Corona bottle man came and parked his lorry outside. We took empty bottles to him and bought new ones.
Opposite us was a long drive (to Baptist Chapel) with a brown wooden place at the top where we went up steps to where a man, with a daughter, sold fruit & vegetables – I remember buying bananas. (Andraea’s?)
There was a forge near the village school and on a Saturday morning we used to watch the smithy shoeing horses.
The Greens/Armstrongs lived in the road to the Church (in Harston House). My sister won a beautiful baby competition at a garden party there, much to my father’s disgust that may mother had entered her!
Further down that road (Church Street) was a farm run by the Crowe family. They had a tennis court and my parents played tennis there in the summer. I was allowed to go to the farm to look at the animals; I loved the piglets especially. I used to cycle there.
We played ‘Pooh sticks’ in the river at the end of the village (Haslingfield Rd). We also went to a place in Haslingfield to swim in the river. We children also swam in the river down from Hauxton Mill (and Hauxton Pest Control). Goodness knows what went into the river!
At Button End there was a large family (Bakers) who were very ‘green’. The father was a Scientist for Pest Control. They went on a ‘Ban the Bomb’ march and had their photos on the front of the paper.
My mother was a member of the W.I. I think the WI had drama competitions and for one event needed a man and my father offered. This may have been the beginning of The Harston Players that my parents, Alan and Betty Hill were in, 1952-4. Other names I remember from the players were Ceilia and Barbara (her cousin) Kendon, Muriel Lury (Mark Lury was a doctor of Science at Pest Control), Vicky Jones (next door but one to us) and Betty Hays (Newton Rd/Station Rd).