Margaret Louisa Badcock was born in Harston in 1911. The following was written by her while she was in hospital in 1982 after breaking her hip. It gives an idea of life in Harston in the 1910s and 20s. Her father was John Richman Badcock (1865-1950), the village baker. She died in 2003.
Childhood view of Harston
As one gets older one’s thoughts seem to turn more to the days of one’s childhood.
I do not often visit the village where I was brought up as I now live up north but I can visualise it all very clearly.
There was the main highway where even then the traffic was noisy, and running off from this two lanes leading, one past the church and the other right up to the open fields.
The land around the village was very flat being a few miles out of Cambridge, and driving out of the village one had an impression of many fruit trees and houses with big gardens, lovely vegetables and flowers. Outside the village the road ran through flat fields of ripe corn in the summer, and in the winter the freezing winds blew right from Russia over the flat countryside.
If one didn’t own a car, transport was scarce, and one’s legs came in useful in the long walk home from Cambridge.
Home and family
My own house was Bath Cottage – the name given by the previous owners (now called Byron Lodge). It was on the main road, opposite the village green and war memorial and a pump.
My father (John Richman Badcock) loved this house in which he had grown up. There were seven bedrooms, (there were seven in the family), also a lounge, dining room, kitchen and cellar. My mother used to say I wish I could get away from this barn of a place.
As my father was a baker we were fascinated to see the sacks of flour in the loft, and liked to climb up the ladder, then we could see the flour let down on a chute into the bakery.
There was plenty of space outside for us to play. There was a long back garden leading up to an orchard with russet apple trees. We also for a time had nanny and billy goats with two little kids, plus hens and ducks. There was a stable which housed the horse, with which my father took round the bread. We liked to go in the stable to look at the horse. There was great excitement once when the stable door was left open and a band was passing the house. The horse had come from South Africa and was used to running when he heard the bugler and as the band passed Victor ran up the street. Just then my Father came out and ran after him, but he’d got to the top of the street. A man got a rope and threw it round his neck and my father brought him back.
We used to like to go round in the cart with him to take bread. When you think that it was 6d a loaf in those days. I was going with him one day, I had jumped down and gone to a house with a loaf and collected 6d from them, as I got on the cart I dropped it and couldn’t find it. He asked where it was and I thought he was very cross when I said I’d dropped it. He just smiled and said, ‘We’re not going to get very rich like that.’
Opposite our house was my uncle’s house (Clement John Jude who was married to my Aunt Louisa) which was a joy to my sister and myself as he had a lovely big garden, his pride and joy. As he had no children his garden was his chief interest. There were two big well kept lawns with a big tree on one, a path covered with a pergola and climbing roses and oh those roses filled all the beds, the big standard roses. The house was an old fashioned country cottage with low beams and wood work on the outside. The games we played in this garden, how wonderful they were! Our great delight was where my uncle used to keep his building materials in, as he was a builder. There were great long poles filling up the room. One of the boy’s games was to climb up a ladder on to one of the beams, throw a rope round it, and let us down with the rope one at a time. (In the tea party photo is possibly Clem Jude sat to left, next to him sitting is Louisa Jude, nee Badcock. Standing next to Clem Jude is Margaret Mellor. Second from the right is Grace Bowd. The rest is Margaret’s sister, parents & aunts.)
When I was about 8 yrs we enjoyed a really old fashioned Xmas. My aunt and uncle lived on Manor Farm, Shepreth, a few miles from us, and entertained all the family of aunts and uncles for Xmas. My uncle called for us, that is my sister and me, round my mother’s in his milk float pulled by a horse. We made our own entertainment and always prepared a play at Xmas.
My aunt Agnes was very kind giving us treats. She used to take us to Cambridge and in a café where we had cream buns with real cream in and meringues with cream too.
The greatest treat I can remember was going to an exhibition of the university flying club who were giving flights in small aeroplanes. Aunt Agnes gave us some money to go in one of the aeroplanes. It was absolutely open, and my sister and I sat on a wooden form. Then the aeroplane took off and it was a wonderful thrill to look down on the ground. The fields were spread out like handkerchiefs, and people like ants crawling about. I had on my school hat which was rather silly as the wind soon blew it off, and I was worrying about what my mother would say if it was lost. The most wonderful sensation was when the plane came down, the earth seemed to rise up to meet us, and then it had landed. When we climbed out of the plane I saw a girl holding my hat. I rushed up to her, and she said she’d seen it fall out of the plane, so that was a relief.I thought it was the most wonderful experience of my life, and longed to learn to fly.
Another thrill of my childhood was when the frost was very hard and the flat fields were flooded and frozen, so that everyone could go skating on them. My father and aunts and uncles were all great skaters, and there used to be races on the ice. My father won a silver medal for winning a race: he skated all the way to Ely on the dykes which were frozen. We children had a jolly day out on the ice. It was very cold but great fun. We had skates and tried to skate but kept tumbling over, our ankles ached terribly but our aunts held our arms and helped us along. We got home in our uncle’s car, tired but happy.
In the summer of 1925, my sister was fifteen and I was fourteen. How exciting it was to be invited by our friend Mrs Ilsley who lived next door at the Post Office to go to stay for a few days at the farmhouse where she was brought up on the borders of Wales at the little village of Mordiford. My sister and I got our things packed ready. My mother had made us both a dress of white serge trimmed with red which was fashionable then. We were going all the way in the car which was very exciting as there weren’t many cars then.
I remember so well all the village people, the ones who stand out most were the schoolmaster, the chapel minister, Philip who was rather dim witted, but was a very religious chapel goer (and had no roof to his mouth so that he spoke in a muffled way). I remember at Xmas time when the carollers were going round, Philip would come singing on his own his peculiar voice, and when the door was opened would say “will you give to the chapel please?”
The vicar I remember most was a tremendous character who had the appearance of how I should imagine a saint would be. He had a short little bowed figure with white hair and the most piercing blue eyes I have ever seen. He was a wonderful preacher and people used to come from all the adjoining villages to hear him.
I remember going to his confirmation classes and one memory that remains with me is of going to a class in the dark church with no lights only two flickering candles (I can’t remember why), and his eyes pierced the darkness. “You’re five minutes late” he said, “I really don’t think you’re fit to be confirmed, you’re not taking it seriously enough”.
I also remember after a children’s service that a button was found in the collection bag, and we were all detained until the guilty child owned up. He was told by the vicar that he was in danger of going to hell for his wickedness.
The Sunday school we attended was held in the drawing room of the vicarage and was taken by the vicar’s wife, a most frightening old lady who thought the village children should curtsey to her. She really looked victorian in her black dress and lace cap. She wore pince nez, and I used to watch fascinated as they slipped further and further down her nose and finally right off. She and the vicar were a most devoted couple and he would often come into the class give her a kiss and ask how she was getting on.
Harston people and events
The most important house in the village was the big house (Harston House) where a bachelor baronet in the admiralty lived with his three middle aged sisters, two unmarried and one widow. One of the sisters was very active in public affairs, while the other was a dreamy artistic person who wrote plays which were performed by the whole village. I remember acting in a fairy play written by this sister (Miss Mary we all called her) which had an ideal setting in a beautiful garden with a river running through it and a bridge over it. I remember hiding in the summer house with the other fairies till we received our cue to come dancing out.
Another time the whole village took part in a pageant which marched right through the village singing preceded by a brass band, which finished in the large park where the fete was held. All the activities took place to raise money for the building of a village hall to be the centre of the village’s social activities. This was built in time and opened with much ceremony and was indeed the social life of the village afterwards.
Another character I remember well was an old lady who had been my nurse when I was a baby. I suppose she was a kind of district nurse but I don’t think she had had any proper training, and was severely reprimanded for not washing my eyes properly which resulted in my having the serious eye complaint of opthalmia and nearly went blind.
Another character was the village doctor. I don’t know how he managed to get qualified. Before the national health his idea was to get as much money out of people as possible. His methods were somewhat primitive. He persuaded my father to extract our tonsils without any anaesthetic, the result being that we nearly bled to death. My father had to pay him a lot of money, and as he only took part of them out, we had to go to the hospital to finish off the job. We looked like ghosts we were so white. He also fancied himself as a dentist, and would tie some string round a tooth and round the door handle and slam it. My aunts thought he was wonderful because he made a fuss of them, but my mother didn’t like him.