Sheila Edwards memories
Hilary Roadley chatted with Sheila Oct 2017 and son Paul Nov 2017
Move to Roebourne House, Harston
Sheila and her husband Charlie bought Roebourne House, 11 Royston Rd (in an auction at Lion Hotel, Petty Curry, Cambridge) in 1955 from the estate of James Edwin Rodwell. He hadn’t lived in the house but had previously rented it out to two ladies. They no longer use the house name since they were given a number.
They moved here as Charlie worked as an entomologist at Pest Control, Hauxton and Sheila worked in the office there. They wanted some land and space and there was 3-4 acres with the house. The house had been built in 1901 and they have made a few alterations to it over time. There used to be an outside toilet and coalhouse but these are now a laundry room and a small wooden conservatory was added alongside the wall. The larder adjacent to the kitchen had a window overlooking the garden outside the lounge French doors and a mesh front to the safe part; this was converted to a downstairs cloakroom leading off the hall below the stairs and the lounge was extended back onto the garden area. The garage on the east side of the house was added soon after they moved there in 1955 but was later changed to a playroom when the children were little, and a study cum music room later on. When they first came there were stairs up to a room in the attic which had floor boards and a small window in the gable but they soon removed the stairs as they took up too much room on the landing. Sheila now regrets removing the old fireplaces which had decorated tiles and replaced them with ‘modern’ fireplaces at the time.
There was also a line of two barns a way back behind the drive which used to have three cottages opposite them, the barns providing stabling for the cottages. There was a well near the end of the barn but Charlie filled this in, for safety reasons, with the bricks he kept digging up in the garden where the cottages used to be. He would also dig up old clay pipes, glass bottles and lots of horseshoes, many of them quite small. The barn nearest the house was built of brick with a tiled roof while the other end barn was made of claybat and had a wooden hayloft above with horse stables below, and a tiled roof. The barn had wooden beams that must previously have been cut for other uses. When the end wall crumbled it was replaced with breeze blocks by Eric Pearl. Charles used this end barn as a workshop. Eric Pearl also rebuilt the front garden wall after it had been completely demolished when a lorry crashed into it right up to the Sycamore tree in 1979.
Although Charlie was abroad a lot working on aerial crop sprays using helicopters for Pest Control on tea plantations in Sri Lanka and cotton in Sudan, he and Sheila were both keen on horticulture at home. The back 3 acres of their plot was originally orchards, mostly Cambridge Gages with a few apples, with a long path down the middle. These they got Tim Austin to cut down as they were old and neglected. They did consider growing Christmas trees or strawberries but decided not to and the area was turned into pasture, still reached by a gate from their long garden. Charlie did plant a new small orchard, still there, at the bottom of the garden beyond the Willow tree. When they had apples Mr Hopkins from Church Street would take their apples to sell elsewhere. Although they had fewer apple trees they planted soft fruit over the years- blackcurrants and raspberries
In one of the barns Sheila looked after one hundred ‘day old chicks’ in deep litter which she later let out onto the land behind the barn. The chickens were left to run around under old apple trees there. The eggs were collected on trays by the Egg Packing Station and before collection Sheila would spend Sunday evenings getting them ready- cleaning them, etc. She would also boil up vegetable peelings to mix with the mash to feed the chickens. Sheila kept chickens until she had her children.
The land behind/to the east of the barns then became an area for Charlie growing vegetables and they were self-sufficient in these and fruit so Sheila never had to buy any, although had to spend more time removing mud off vegetables!
As Sheila and Charlie were keen on horticulture they were members of the Harston Horticultural Society, with Charlie being the Chairman for a few years. They both took part in shows and in particular Sheila was keen on flower arranging. She belonged to Fisons flower arranging club but later, probably in 1970s, ran flower arranging classes for others to attend in Harston Village Hall. Harry Lawrance, who they knew well, made Sheila wrought iron flower arranging stand which she has still got. More recently she was involved in the flower festival which helped raise money for the new kitchen and toilet for the parish church.
Charlie was also on the Village Hall Committee, and was Chairman there for a number of years. During that time Daphne Whittamore got all the male committee members to bring along their paint brushes to repaint the hall.
Sheila used to cook for lunch club, especially making puddings, when Peggy Heap ran it. Sheila also belonged to the WI for many years, and was President for three of those.
Sheila had three children who went to school in Cambridge, although Paul went first to Mrs Brewer’s playgroup in the Village Hall and Katie went to Harston Primary School from Sep 1970 to Jul 1974. Jane and Paul went to St Colletes Cambridge Preparatory School.
Neighbours and friends
The Edward’s family had a lot of fun on their grass tennis court on their back lawn. To make the ground flat Charlie had to raise the land a few feet with barrow after barrow load of soil. They were very friendly with Bridget and Peter Bromilow and played tennis with them regularly as well as doing lots of other things such as going to the Arts Theatre. They all played tennis on Sunday afternoon, and Bridget and Sheila would also play at Fisons or with Chris Moore as the latter also had a tennis court in their garden near the station; both Chris and Trevor Moore were very good players. On Thursdays Sheila would push Jane to the Moore’s and she would sit in her pram watching Sheila play tennis. They also played on the grass courts behind the Village Hall until the land was sold off for the Telephone exchange. Harston House also had a grass tennis court.
Denise and John Cairns lived in Byron Lodge (3 Royston Rd). John was an eye surgeon at Addenbrookes but was also a keen gardener. Their barn and land went behind Fountain Cottage and they had a prolific vegetable garden there going all the way down to Wedd’s paddock. Denise was also keen on growing flowers.
Vera’s Boutique was at 5 Royston Rd, Vera (Norfolk) being the sister of Renie and sister-in-law of Mr Stocker. Vera was a retired domestic Science teacher who had worked at Bottisham Village College and then opened her small shop. The entrance door to it was near to the Lawrance’s house at No 7. The shop seemed to have everything- especially wools and clothes; also soft toys she made- she was a very good seamstress. She had a regular delivery van from which she could choose garments and would ask Sheila if she wanted to look at what the van offered. Sheila particularly remembers the time when Indian skirts were the fashion.
Harry Lawrance and his wife lived at 7 Royston Rd. He was the traditional village blacksmith working at 4 High St and Sheila would take her children to look at the furnaces there as they walked past. After Harry’s wife died he had his house converted into two flats, Harry remaining on the ground floor. His son Ron and his wife Gwen lived in the top flat and looked after Harry.
9 Royston Rd was occupied by Bertie Cox and his wife and was originally a small two up two down cottage. Bertie worked for Smiths at the mill. They had no family and eventually Suzanne and Robert Stratton bought the house, tore it apart, doubled the size and nicely renovated it. They changed the position of the stairs which had originally been directly up from the front door, and turned them around. They lived there for over 20 years and had two boys who went to the Catholic School in Cambridge. After them another family bought it and enlarged it again so it is nothing like the original small cottage.
The Granary, 13 Royston Rd, was still operating as a Granary when they first moved in, in 1955 but then the Threfalls converted it to a house- with lots of windows at the back, and a bit of orchard by it. When Butch Tyler moved in he removed the orchard behind the Granary as he was keen on growing vegetables on that area of land.
Sheila recalls the Thompson family lived on the land to the east of them, some in the old farmhouse and railway carriage, and some in a corrugated iron building on land to south where poultry was kept on their chicken farm. When the Hearns bought the farm and land they got permission to knock the building down and build a house instead- called Linden House. This was bought and greatly extended by the Wedds later on. TheHearns also built a house for Jean Hearn’s mother on Station Rd, no 6, as well as no’s 8 and 10. Jean Hearn’s son Geoffrey played with Sheila’s son Paul. The Hearn’s lived in Hauxton before Harston. On the opposite side of Station Rd was a nursery on what is now the school field.
The Edwards were also friendly with the Gibsons who lived in Holland House in the High St, opposite side from the Old English Gentleman. They had a lot of fruit trees at the back and were keen on growing and exhibiting fruit and vegetables at the local show.
Charlie’s sister, a nurse living in Doncaster, would often go to London by train for meetings then come to Harston station by train. The Edwards used the trains little as they had two cars- one used by sheila to take the children to school in Cambridge and one Charlie used to get to work.
Other village people and businesses
Dr Young’s house was on High St and his son-in-law Dr Webb also lived there with his family. Dr Webb was the Edward family’s doctor and he delivered Sheila’s two eldest in their own home.
Miss Jackson had a hairdressers in a wooden hut to left of shop (No 29 High St) where Sheila once got her hair permed. Another wooden hut to the right was occupied by Jack Northrop who was the paperman. Later this became a paint shop. There was also another wooden hut at the beginning of Chapel lane- possibly run by a Northrop. Where Hairs & Graces now is (No 49 High St) there was a little shop in the front room selling sweets. There was also a wooden hut that housed a cobbler’s business. Behind No 29 High St was a thatched cottage occupied, Sheila thinks, by a Mr Butler. He had a van and went round delivering bread and odd bits of groceries. Later the Fullers bought the thatched cottage. Sheila knew Maureen Fuller from WI; she was good at arranging flowers.
Miss Collins was a big lady who owned Lime Tree farm and rode a large white horse. Sheila rode a horse there a few times with her- not on the road but in the fields and the Drift.
Sheila’s son Paul recalls his apprenticeship in 1970s at Harston Motors, owned by Basil Wilson (wife Julie). Basil’s parents Millie and Claud lived in a house adjacent to the garage which had petrol pumps originally, which Millie? served at. Harston Motors was one of the first to get the Volvo franchise which was quite a coup at the time. Later on they got the body shop at the back with spraying booths. Much later they sold out to Lancaster. They then brought in Porsche who eventually let the Volvo franchise go to Marshalls. Now they are so overexpanded the workers have to park elsewhere. Originally they parked behind No 29 High St and someone in a mini-bus would pick them up from there and ferry them to the main site along the High St. Paul was able to cycle there. After a spell elsewhere Paul returned there and worked there for another 16 years, but left when the Volvo franchise left.