Early links between Harston and Val Joslin’s family
Val’s mum, Gladys Ryland and grandmother Edith Ryland used to come from London to the Evergreens to their Pask relatives for holidays in the countryside as early as 1900s. Edith Ryland was widowed when Gladys was only 14 as her husband’s lungs had been damaged by gas in WW1 and he succumbed to the 1919 flu epidemic. Their Aunt Mary (nee Northfield) was a teacher in Harston. She had married William Pask, who came from Hartest in Suffolk and ran a butchery business in the shop which is now the Post Office. When he moved into The Evergreens with Mary, his sister Susannah came too. Even though Susannah was 66 when Val moved there from London, she was full of fun, taking Val carol singing, making up different words to the songs, and making ice slides in the yard in winter.
The Northfield family were very enterprising, owning a number of properties and businesses, acting as carriers and carrying out numerous transactions within the village, as recorded in a large ledger dating from the 1850s that Val still possesses. The Northfields had five daughters, including Mary, and ensured they all got a share of the profits from their numerous businesses by assigning certain cottages/properties to the various members of the family – possibly also to reduce/spread the amount of rates paid.
The house was named The Evergreens after the large evergreens in the front garden. They still have the same clipped bushes in front of the door where family members used to hang a house key inside, on one of the branches. The front garden was full of daffodils which Val once picked to give to her schoolfriends over the hedge. (The Pasks were not too pleased at this show of generosity!) To the left of the house was a large conservatory, but this is no longer there. At the back of the house, steps lead down from the kitchen into a large dark pantry which was always cool.
There were lots of barns and sheds behind the house and they enclosed the yard behind it, leaving a gap through to the orchard beyond. There were chicken sheds dotted around the orchard, and at the back of it was a gate leading into enclosed meadows. They plucked the geese and chickens to eat as well as eating the eggs they provided. To the left of the yard and barns where they kept chicken feed, was the area where the geese were fenced in. In one of the old sheds was stored the furniture which was saved from Val’s family’s house after it was bombed. To the right of the yard was a washhouse with a copper, and an outside toilet. There was an old pump in the yard nearby, but by the time Val visited they had piped water, although the bathroom only had a cold tap. Just to the right of the yard at the end of the drive, on the right, there was an open barn where (much later in the 1950s) Val’s parents were allowed to park their car.
Wartime move to Harston
Val’s family used to live in East Ham, London. There Val’s family sheltered in an Anderson shelter in their garden while their house was bombed and made unsafe during the ‘Blitz of 1940/41 so they were not even allowed back. They had to travel by bus to find shelter with friends and Val still remembers the intense embarrassment she felt at being on a bus in her pyjamas. After moving from place to place staying with different friends and relatives for a few months, at the age of 6 Val came to Harston with her mother and grandmother, accepting an offer from the Pask family, distant relatives in Harston to stay with them in The Evergreens (still to the right of the Estate Agents). Harston village was asked to take evacuees and the Pasks felt they would rather have people they knew. Val’s family expected to return to London before too long, but after 3 years they moved into a cottage, 5,(now 48) High Street) owned by the Pasks. It was quite a shock/change of lifestyle to find themselves with no electricity, no running water and a toilet at the end of the garden, as their terraced house in London, although small, had these basic amenities. At end of war, when her father returned from serving in the RAF, they decided to stay in Harston as their London home had been ‘compulsorily purchased’. Also, by then Val was attending the Cambridgeshire High School for Girls in Long Road. Val’s mother lived in the cottage for the next 50 years until her death in 1991.
When my family moved into the cottage in 1945 or 46 it was number 5, High Street and there were definitely 2 more cottages joined to it (Nos 6 & 7). One was occupied by two sisters surnamed Mumford and the other by a Mr and Mrs South. I am not sure of the year the re-numbering took place nor exactly when those two cottages were demolished in order to build the bungalow. I was working in London at the time but I do remember that my parents were really worried about the effect this would have on their cottage wall and how it would be made weather proof. The purchase was made by a local estate agent who then built the bungalow for an elderly relative. The renumbering probably happened before it was built. Frank and Brenda Gates were the next owners.
After the war, Val remembers an incident that changed her attitude to ‘the enemy’. One Sunday evening in 1946, she was with her mother and father (recently demobbed) at Harston Baptist Church, when a young German POW walked into the service. As the war was over, he was allowed a certain amount of freedom and had walked from the POW camp at Trumpington. Val’s father, to his own amazement (as he later admitted), found himself shaking this young man’s hand. They invited Hans home and got to know him, even lending him Val’s mother’s old bicycle so that he could cycle over to their cottage. Val was just beginning to learn German at Long Road and Hans was delighted to help her. They kept in touch as he returned to Germany, qualified as an architect and eventually married. In 1956 he brought his wife, Dorle, on holiday to England and was back in Harston to celebrate Val’s 21st birthday.
Val recalls ‘ My first memory of Harston station was in 1945 when my mother and I met my newly ‘de-mobbed’ father on the platform. He was returning from 6 years away at war and I remember seeing this lone figure at the end of the platform after the train had left- just like in ‘the railway children’.
After the war was over we began to use the railway for outings to London, as it was an easy way to get there. We sometimes went for sightseeing (my parents were Londoners and thought I should get to know the capital) and also for an annual visit to C&As in Oxford Street for a new winter coat.
When the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) was married In November 1947, we caught an early train from Harston and stood for hours in The Mall watching the carriages on their way to and from Westminster Abbey and listening to the service broadcast on loudspeakers.
As life returned to normal after the war, Harston station was always the starting point for our summer holidays and Christmas visits to our relations in Cheshire – a journey that took over eight hours!’
Probably as a result of her wartime experiences, Val suffered from chorea (then known as St. Vitus Dance!) and had to delay starting school for 6 months. There were a number of evacuees at Harston school but they integrated well. She used to play with some evacuee children who lived in the present Post Office. She remembers Donald Whitton as she often competed with him at school. She also remembers the small bottles of milk and concentrated orange juice they were given. Other ‘after-school’ activities included paddling in the pool at Harston Mill, climbing hollow trees in Button End, crawling through the water conduit under the road (also in Button End) and school holidays spent exploring the fields and streams between Haslingfield and Hauxton.
Val went to school with Pamela Lawrance, who lived in Church St. and was related to Mr. Lawrance, the village blacksmith.
She remembers Mary Greene and her cousin Graham Greene setting painting competitions in school. Despite a genuine lack of artistic ability she remembers winning a prize of a ‘half-crown’ (12.5p today) for a picture of a lighthouse and boat in a storm. (The rest of the class must have been even worse!)
An unpleasant memory was the sight of a dentist chair arriving in the school hall (now the IT room) once a year. Val still shudders at the sound of any drill.
Val recalls standing outside the school to wave as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) passed by in an open-topped car on their way to Cambridge but cannot remember the purpose of the visit.
Each summer a sports day was held either in the field by The Drift or in Button End. Two unusual events were the ‘slow bicycle’ race in which the winner was the rider who stayed upright the longest, and also the ‘decorated bicycle’ competition, which depended on the artistic talent of mothers rather than their children.
Cricket matches and gymkhanas were regular events in the field by the Drift. This field was then known as the Park. Val also remembers summer evenings playing tennis on the two courts behind the Village Hall. The club met there regularly and played matches against other villages. She also played tennis on the Rodwell’s court which was in front of their house, and bordered the ditch along the high St. The Rodwells lived in a big house, no 62 high St, to the right of the Police house, and where the Limes road entrance now is. Behind their house was Lime tree Farm where Ms Collen and her mother lived. They kept horses and gave riding lessons there to Val and others.
She enjoyed performing with the local dramatic society and remembers playing opposite the then headmaster, Peter Shoote, in the play: A Quiet Wedding. (She even had a good review in the local paper!)
Val recalls ‘We had a thriving Brownie pack which met in the ‘Oddfellows Hall’, beside the present hairdressers, and a Girl Guide company which met in ‘Stockers’ field beside the Three Horseshoes pub opposite the school’. Val used to take a group of girls from the Baptist church to play rounders on the Hurrell’s playing field (with Hurrell’s permission). She also remembers Gymkanas in the field.
Returning to Harston
From 1953-55 Val went to Stockwell Teacher Training College in Bromley, Kent, and taught in that area for two more years until returning to Harston in 1957 to teach at Shelford and later in 1962 at Melbourn Village College. She remembers the Arbon twins there, who had come to the Wednesday Group at the Baptist.
Val was a Sunday School teacher and from about 1957-60 Val helped run the Wednesday club at the Baptist church, along with Edna Jackson (who later married David Willers. There were 3 Jackson sisters- the teacher Cissy, hairdresser Phyllis, then Nellie who stayed at home to look after their parents. The girls never married and all the family lived together in Hauxton. Edna was their neice also lived in Hauxton.)
Children aged 7 upwards went to the Wednesday group. The photo shows a group in the field to the right of the Drift- the Park, with permission of Col Hurrell. In summer the group would play rounders in the Park, then return to the church to do handicrafts, like knitting, and drawing & colouring. In winter they would be inside the church schoolroom doing country dancing, followed by slides/filmshows and more thoughtful talks.
The church also ran a summer holiday club which had lots of activities and outings each year to places such as Hunstanton and Whipsnade Park. A CSSM (Christian mission) chap who lived in Bourn came to run it. One year they went on the Cam.
Val (nee Hartshorn) was married in the Baptist Church in 1963 and lived with her husband Roy and two sons in London for 23 years, later returning to Harston in 1985 when Roy became ill with Parkinson’s disease. This also enabled her to care for her aging parents who were still living in their cottage.
Val and Roy moved into a bungalow that Mr Andrae originally built for his son, John, who worked for him. Mr Andrae lived in the first house on the right in Chapel Lane (it has a high St number.) Mr Andrae owned all the land going back from the High St to next to the Baptist church where he had a nursery with numerous greenhouses. When he retired he built a second bungalow (now no.1 Chapel Lane.) for himself and his wife. There were no other houses there originally. He would have liked to have developed it himself but didn’t get permission. The Baptist church then bought some of his land with the intention of building a new manse as the old one on the High St had been sold. (I think the last minister to live there was the Rev. George Ely with his wife and 4 children, Maureen, Michael, Geoffrey and Christine). Mr. and Mrs. Foster bought some land from the church to build a bungalow. This, in turn, enabled the church to build the present Manse which was completed in 1986.
An event which shocked the village was a night-time fire at Park House, the home of Colonel Hurrell who was Lord Lieutenant of the County at the time. It was apparently caused by a cigarette setting fire to the bed where his elderly mother was sleeping and the fire brigade, sadly, were unable to save her.
Val remembers Helen and Mary Greene. Helen Greene lost her sight and she helped her to study ‘moon’ – rather than braille.
The blacksmith, Vic Lawrance and his family used to live in a small cottage on the site of the Pearly Queen’s old house. Mary, his daughter became a teacher and later married the Revd. Askham. Albert his son was also a teacher and became Head of Soham Grammar School.
Nora Sellen lived in the Willows in Button End and she wrote a later History of Harston. She was very musical and was part of a local musical group.
Win Manning worked for the Hays for a long time as a dairymaid and later took on the cleaning of Baggot Hall, the farmhouse. She still lives in a tied cottage, Greystones, belonging to the Hays – in Button End.
The first PO that I remember was at 53 High Street. Before it became the PO I remember visiting the house to play with a fellow evacuee sometime between 1942-44. I can’t remember his name but we both had a collection of toy tin soldiers (which must have been the attraction!) and we used to spread them out on the floor.
I’m not sure exactly when it became the PO but it must have been in the mid to late 40s as I remember taking my large collection of farthings in there and changing them into ‘shillings and pence’ (I wish I’d hung on to them!) Later I had a PO savings account and went in regularly to make small deposits.
In my teens, (probably about 1950) I earned some pocket money by being employed in the Christmas holidays to deliver post in Harston. At 6am I had to help sort the mail in the small room behind the PO and then set off on my bike with the first of several bag-loads of deliveries, returning home for breakfast after 9am.
I can’t remember exactly when the PO moved to its present premises but it was obviously after Mr.Ed Burl returned and recovered from his traumatic wartime experiences. As for the shop side, I can’t remember any other merchandise at the 53, High St PO. I think the present PO had some sidelines but on a very much smaller scale than now. It has obviously been extended.