Joan Gipson & Joyce Carter's memories

Joan and Joyce shared their memories with Hilary Roadley May-June 2015

Joan Gipson & Joyce Carter May 2015

Harston Station

Joan (nee Cook) lived in Newton until 1953 when she married and left Newton for Meldreth, where she lived until her death in Dec 2015. Joan’s father Charles Cook was given a job on the railways after World War One. He fought with the Middlesex Regiment and was a prisoner of war. Before the war he was a farm labourer.

The station was manned by 4 men, the station master, 2 signalmen and a porter. Ted Handcock was a signalman. Jim Deacon and Ben Tweed worked for the railways and went by train to work in Cambridge. In the evenings friends of the signal men met in the box for a chat as it was always warm in there. The signal box was controlling the Kings Cross Line and the branch line to Liverpool St. The station was used by local farmers for the transport of sugar beet and other goods. The station master lived on site. He was considered a very important person. Mr Clutten was a station master, probably the last one.

The station was used by people from Harston and Newton – particularly school children who left their bikes behind the signal box – they were quite safe in those days. Joan and her brother Albert both passed scholarship exams so went on the Harston train to High School in Cambridge, leaving bikes at the station, having rode there from Newton.


Joan lived in Newton but was a post lady in the school holidays, picking up the mail from the Post Office on Royston Road, Harston and delivering mail to Newton, doing Newton Hall first. The mail was not for Lord Walston who lived there, but for Richard Crossman who often stayed at the Hall. He did not become an MP until after the war but clearly had an important role during the war as the post had to go there first.

Joyce (nee Pluck) lived in Newton but worked from age 14 at the Post Office in Royston Road from 1941-43, She initially earned 7s 6d for a 44 hour week, then got 15s after 2 years. She did the counters and delivered the telegrams on her bike. There seemed to be regular telegrams to Stockbridges at Hauxton and Lady Walston in Newton (who many allege to have had affairs with Graham Greene the author in Harston, and others.) Enid Banks (from Newton) also worked there but the PO was owned by Mrs Illsley, a Baptist. It was also the (national) Employment Agency, but Joyce wasn’t involved in that. One winter, when the watercress beds froze over, ladies from Fowlmere cycled to Harston to sign on for the dole (unemployment benefit.) All the pensioners were paid on a Thursday and she was a little afraid of Miss Stockbridge who banged her stick on the door and had a speech impediment so was difficult to understand. Miss Stockbridge lived in a cottage on the High St, near Manor Close. Miss Kathy (Kathleen) Hurrell used to buy a lot of National Savings Stamps from the Post Office then sell 6d stamps to people who would stick them in a book and when they got 15 shillings’ worth they could get a National Savings Certificate. (Miss Hurrell’s mother died in a fire in Park House).

Joyce easily passed all her exams and held responsible work in Cambridge for 15 years in the Telegraph Department of the Post Office. Joyce married when she was 31. After the war married woman were expected to give up their jobs so returning men could have the jobs so she resigned. All school teachers appeared to be Misses. Some married women did cleaning. After leaving the PO Joyce worked for Fisons, then later for Tanner and Hall in Harston for 10 years until she was 63. The Halls had been a good firm to work for.

School days

Joyce went to school in Newton till 11 then along with all others came to Harston for the last 4 years (1938-41). In the old Harston school there was a hall at the front by the High St and two classrooms behind. Next to the hall was a room where the boys did woodwork and the girls in turn did cookery, or learnt how to do the laundry. These subjects were taught by peripatetic teachers – Mr Chadwick came to teach the boys; Mrs Richards was a teacher there who taught everything, including needlework to the girls. The bigger classroom was for ‘Daddy’ Royston and it had double doors for him to exit opposite his house next door. She thought Royston had a strange little old wife. A Miss Dorothy Pluck also taught there, but went on to be Head at Newton.

Helene Greene presented Joyce with a prize for a poster depicting the Battle of Britain week. Joyce remembers a George Cornell at school as he passed to go to the County School.

The school had a number of evacuees. John Ware (from London) and his whole family she can remember came to live in a bungalow in London Road, and may have run a business (in London?) from there. The evacuees would come on the train to Harston Station, then in the case of Newton would walk to the Village Hall where local families picked who they wanted and the Billeting Officer usually took the rest. Joan’s mother was the Billeting Officer for Newton. They think the same probably happened in Harston. Tony Gatward said it was Mrs Bissecker who was the Billeting Officer, who lived in the Old House almost opposite the school.

Scouts went on a camping trail on bikes with hand carts behind bikes. They went camping in North-east Cambs somewhere near antiaircraft guns.

Health care

Joyce remembers Dr Young on the High St whose daughter Horatia married Dr Webb. When Joyce’s brother Maurice was born in February men had to clear Newton Hill of snow to allow the doctor to get through – no road salting in those days – they relied on farmers to help clear the roads. 1947 was the worst year and she can remember cycling through snow drifts to work – she was never late.

Joyce’s aunt Alice Fuller’s father was a Northrop who ran the Oddfellows, and lived in Green Man Lane in a row of cottages. (He had an unmarried son called Harold.) He was very smartly dressed and seemed to collect money for a type of insurance scheme that gave members who paid in medical benefits – if they were ill they could see the nominated doctor for free – medicine costs were very high, then. Joyce’s mum had a bottle of medicine that cost 7s 6d.  Joyce’s dad and children were covered by the insurance but not her mum. Joan’s father Charles Cook was part of Oddfellows but she can’t remember him going to any meetings.

During wartime

Pinehurst in the High Street billeted soldiers – there were not so many in Harston as Newton. A Mr Hutchinson, who had a large house, to the left of the school, had soldiers billeted there. Joyce thought he might have been an archaeologist as he went away and wanted his mail re-directed to Heliopolis, Egypt!

There was a searchlight base in an opening which is now Queen’s Close. Lots of planes seemed to crash nearby – one crashed between the Mill (on river) and the road to Foxton. Then all the boys rushed out of school to see it – David Deacon said it was a Boeing flying fortress B17C.

A prisoners of war camp was situated along the A10 between Hauxton and Trumpington and stretched for about ½ mile. It was for German, then Italian prisoners of war. Most of them were hardworking and polite. They worked on local farms.  Joyce cycled in to work in Cambridge but when she cycled back the Italians would come up to the fence and shout in Italian or would follow her on her bike. Previously the Germans hadn’t been let out, but the Italians were and bothered her a bit, as did the odd American truck going to Fowlmere (the latter being a satellite for Duxford). Some POWs stayed after the war and married English girls. (It is well documented on Trumpington local History site)

As she cycled through Hauxton she would go past a huge mound left by the coprolite diggers, very near to the present M11 junction.

At the beginning of the war someone allegedly reported signalling from a clunch pit in Newton. During the previous night parachute bombs had been dropped on Newton on the Cambridge Road, shattering many windows. People reported seeing a strange man in the village and apparently a man’s footprints were traced going behind these houses over to Harston, where people heard a rifle shot- thought to have been someone shot in a shed? Only children were allowed to leave the village while they searched. The true story is not known in detail.

Some men worked in the Observer Corps and watched for planes coming, from the ROC post on Newton Hill. Les Northrop (paperman) and Cliff Peacock (of Newton) were some of those who did this in long shifts. Joyce remembers these two as they were paid by postal draft at the PO.

Mr Rodwell had a farm where the Limes area is, which kept pigs, etc and the boys from school helped – all the boys seem to have part time jobs on the farms.

During rationing times eggs could be got for 1s 10d from Thompsons’ caravan in the lane by the farm (opposite the Pemberton Arms) although the chicken farm was on the corner of what is now Lawrance Lea. They had lots of chickens.

Joyce remembers Sir W Graham Greene opening the Village Hal l- they all had a tea party organised by either the British Legion or the Oddfellows. Children also had tea parties there and dances were held there during the war.


Businesses and shops

During war and after Harrisons (a very refined family) was a grocers and bakers at 1 Church St. They baked and delivered to the villages.

Ayres had the shop opposite the Village Hall, with Mrs Jackson’s hairdressers to the left, and clothing shop to right or nearby possibly run by AB Northrop. Mrs Jackson’s sister was the Miss Jackson schoolteacher.

Ron Bass ran his garage – (Joan said) his daughter Betty Folbigg lives in Comberton still. She had TB when young and had to live in a hut in the garden like a wooden cube with a window to get fresh air – there is an example in a museum at Papworth.

Judes were builders and had a depot down Button End.

There was a sweet shop opposite Dr Young’s run by two spinsters – Misses Mumfords.

Joyce’s husband worked at Smith’s mill when at school (after and at weekends) and used to get grain from the Granary in 1940s. The  Smith family at the Mill had several spinster sisters.

Other people Joyce and Joan knew

Mrs Rix in London Road- her son may have been an evacuee

Mrs Gambie had two sons who turned out well; they used to buy ice-creams from Ed Burl’s High St PO.

Vicar Ward- came back on the bus with bag of ‘bottles’ rattling!

The Segraves lived in house next to the Three Horseshoes opposite the school and he was in the Home Guard.

The Warrens had 6 children; Ray died at Barton, one daughter married a farmer and now lives at Comberton, one married an American. They all lived in a council house in Button End.

Joan did housework for the Kendon’s who had 4 children and lived in Harston next to Ron Bass’s garage. They were Quakers and their children went to school in Cambridge. One played in the Crofters band in Newton.

Joan said the Rippers lived in the High St to left of the garage (now Porsche Centre Cambridge) , not to right where Pest Houses were.

Bridget Bromilow started the Folk Dancing in Harston.

Nurse Fitt lived on the left side after you enter Manor Close and all the children went to her with their cuts. She rode around on her bike visiting the villages of Harston, Hauxton and Newton, but later got a car.

Joyce’s late husband Jim (Basil James – answered to both names) was from Harston. He was born in a row of cottages by a lane opposite the school in the High St but the family later lived in the first house on the right as you enter Manor Close. He went into the navy when he was 17 and got sent to Malta on the Magpie immediately after training, where he served with Prince Philip.

Joyce’s brother Gordon still lives in Newton and is married to Gilly who has worked at Harston school for about 45 years.

This page was added on 29/09/2015.

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