Clare remembers


4-6 Bury End 1935

I had never been in No 6 until 1948 therefore I can only tell what I learned from Jack.  I have named all the people by their Christian names. The two adjoining properties were thatched and being so old, were timber framed with no foundations as we know today.

The front door led into the (then) one room, behind which was another area, single height. The stairs divided the two.  The cupboard under the stairs acted as the pantry.  I suppose the ‘copper’ for the washing was in the back room and perhaps a sink.  Doubtless all ablutions took place in that room.

Sometime in the 1920’s the Hitchin Priory Estate which owned these cottages and also other farming properties in the parish, sold them, we believe it was due to death duties. The resident families bought their homes at the cost of £50.00!    Then Jack’s family was considered ‘over-crowded’ and they had either to move or build an extension. There was only one room upstairs and with four children, it was rather full.  However, not so crowded as in earlier years. Jack’s mother, Gertrude, told me she and her family, moved there when she was about 2 years, about 1890, and so she grew up and remained there all her life.

Living in this one ‘upstairs room’ were George and Sarah (nee Odell) Walker, daughters Alice and Gertrude, sons Sidney, Fred, Arthur (killed in WW1) and Herbert (Bert). George Walker was, like most men in the village, an Agricultural Labourer.  He worked we think at Highdown Farm as housekeeper  When Gertrude married Charlie Baines, 1913 he joined the family.  Both George and Sarah had died by that date and Alice had married.  Gertrude was the sister at home caring for her unmarried brothers.  Gradually the boys married and left home except Bert.  He married Rose, the widow of Arthur, in about 1924 and lived up ‘Stoney-yard’ (Maggie Barton) and then next to the Fox. Of course, there were no ‘mod cons’ in these cottages.  Water was from a shared well in the garden of No.4.  The toilet was in the garden, just a few yards from the back door. A butt collected water from the roof and rainfall.  Waste water was emptied into an open ditch in the         which forced its way through the Bury to the ponds.  So another room was built on the side of the cottage giving a bedroom for the boys.

Electricity, mains water and sewers were brought to the village in early 1930’s and so the cottages were connected, but no way of heating water except the fire and copper.  There was a range in the room for cooking. By 1937-8 Jack was working for a plumber’s company and under instructions from Mr Christmas, put the outside lavatory on the sewer. This was still outside.  In the garden were the pig stye, a large apple tree the hen-mil, and the ‘dug’ll – dung hill’ on to which was thrown all kitchen waste and also the contents of the toilet pail. No wonder the house was full of flies, but this was common practice in those days. On wet Mondays – always washing day, everything was hung around the only room.  By now the upstairs room was divided into two.

Now it was war time and in Sept 1944 the bomb which fell on Toot Hill, greatly damaged all of Bury End.  Nos. 4 & 6 lost the thatch and the families had to live with relations in the village for a long time.  However, the cottages were repaired and improved, providing another back room and bedroom, replacing the single storey.  But it was still over-crowded.  Charlie had died and daughter Gladys married and still living at No.6 – no housing was available. and no development during the war. With one child.  Jack was abroad, in the army.  Mother and Mavis moved into the new bedroom, Gladys, Bill and baby used the old room and Cyril the downstairs room.

Gladys and Bill, by then with two children moved to Danefield Road in 1952.  By that time there was a proper bathroom, inside toilet and of course hot water and all ‘mod cons’ and a wonderfully comfortable home.

Charlie Baines, Jack’s father, worked on the railway – LNER based at Finsbury Park.  Several men from the village also worked there.  They left home early on Monday mornings, walked over the fields to Hitchin to catch an early workmen’s train.  On dark mornings they left a stone on the stile at Bannisters meadow (the path to the Recreation Ground) which told those following that one person had already gone in front.  They were away all the week, lodging in Finsbury Park.  Jack said his father got home on Saturday dinner time, worked on his allotment and then returned to Hitchin Station for the night shift.  On Sunday morning he cleaned the family’s shoes, even did the washing up, visited his parents in the Motte & Bailey (Albert & Elizabeth Baines) who had a half part in the White Horse. These men took food back with them on the Monday. In 1942 (I don’t know the date) he with 2 or 3 others were working in Welwyn Garden when they were killed by a bomb.

No.6 remained a family home for the Walker/Baines family for some 120 years. The last of the Baines family, Mavis, died in 2011 aged 97 yrs.


Similar but over the years very much more crowded.  Charles and Ellen Stapleton lived there and until she died in the 1920’s, Grannie Parkins, Ellen’s mother.  I think there was a family of perhaps six – a generation older than Jack’s family.  Charles was always known as Charlie Baker.  During thunderstorms he would walk up and down the same lane clutching his box, which I suppose held his money! Of course, with thatch roof, there was a big worry.  Attached to No.4 was a large barn.  By 1930’s, a ‘standpipe’ just outside brought water to Bury End and so the well was gradually not used and so filled in.

The rear of 4-6 Bury end

Three Gables Much altered and extended.

As I knew it there was, immediately in from the back door, an area in which there was a sink, a brick floor and, on the right, a door to the stairs.  There was no bathroom, and an outside toilet, next to a large barn. Aunt Sis was a wet washer and wore her wellingtons whilst doing the weekly wash!

Uncle Harley and Aunt Sis (Lizzie Glance) lived there all their married life. Behind was through room with a window at both ends.  Divided by the front door was another small room. I think there were two bedrooms.  The thatched roof was taken down in the 1920’s and replaced with slate.  Outside was a small area of grass, vegetable garden and a sycamore tree which came from Sherwood Forest.


3-5 Shillington Rd

This was a group of 3 cottages belonging to the Ancient Order of Foresters.  On the right lived Mr & Mrs Wm Arnold.  He was known as Express Biddie, because of the moderate way in which he rode his bicycle! Very slow. I think he worked at Bowmans Mill.  His first wife, Jane, drowned in the well, whether she fell in or put herself in, I’m not sure.  The well was shared between the cottage and 10 Steps.

10 Steps Shillington Rd

However, Jack’s grandfather, Albert Baines, who lived in 10 Steps, went to draw a bucket of water and saw her hat floating on the water.  There were two daughters, Ruby from his first marriage (now gone) and Margaret from his second marriage.  She was Mrs Bates who lived where Ginny Morton at 91 High Street lived and is now in Hitchin.

My grandparents, David and Alice Shepherd lived, for a few years around 1926-1934, in the middle cottage and a Miss Armitage in number 3 when I was quite young.  A Mr and Miss Smith – brother and sister – followed I’m sure Dick and Audrey Papworth nee Massam   lived there in the 1960’s.  Perhaps the middle cottage was taken into the end one bought by George and Grace Maidment.

117 High Street

Mr & Mrs Gibson lived there, daughter Muriel , son Roland.  Muriel later married Charlie Timbury who was church organist and choirmaster.  They lived at the Croft and then the Baulk.  Mrs Gibson did domestic work for Mrs Franklin. The Gibson’s were followed by the Newsum family

Cromwell Farm

 Fred and Ethel Weeden – both very strong members of the Chapel.  One daughter Freda, won an open scholarship to Oxford and married a Mr Payne, an H.M.Fred (Weeden) grew crops of peas and potatoes, which gave seasonal work to many women.

All the brothers farmed:

George          –           Wrights Farm

Billie               –           Rectory Farm

Bert                –           Hammonds and Welbury Farm

He lived as a boy at No 1 Royal Oak Lane (now Elizabeth Trussel lives there). I believe the house, Cromwell Cottage, was previously a bakery for a Mr Tom Gurney and before them Oswald and Elizabeth Hare (Burton) about 1870 – 80).  The Hare’s had three daughters : Gertrude was the wife of Charles Abbis, brother to Sir George.  He was also a policeman in London.  On retirement they lived at Shillington.  They had one daughter Gladys and another daughter Jane.  Jane’s husband was a taxi driver in London.  A third daughter was Phoebe – she was a widow when I knew them.

The Green

There have been many changes of recent years.  The White Horse, as I remember was owned by Greene-King.  Percy Wright was the licensee.,  He also ran buses – The Pirton  Belle painted red and beige.  A Mr Bullard from Hitchin, a signwriter, painted the inscription on the buses.  In the grounds of the pub were the garages, and also a garden, an area where Percy grew flowers, such as chrysanthemums, for sale.

The White Horse

During the war a hut was built there where the fireman slept – they kept water for incendiary bombs etc. It was later altered into a small dwelling.  Mr & Mrs Little lived there (1946 – 1950)  until rehoused in Danefield Road.  The garage was demolished and the two houses there are of recent construction.  The bungalows – Three Closes are built on meadow lands. No 16 – various families have lived there – Edwin and Annise (Goldsmith) Baines, Kings and Tom Burton, a smallholder – he farmed various small fields and also the far corner of the playing field for help.  His father, David, at the time kept the Red Lion (1880-90).  The footpath alongside No.16 was known as Pigs Alley.

No 14 The Green was three dwellings.  Joe Walker’s bakery, then a small cottage where Fred and Vioet Cooper lived.  On the Green end with a little brick-built place in the garden lived Joe and Alice Davis (nee Walker).  Joe was the cowman at Walnut Tree Farm.  Joy Franklin said he knew all the gossip but he never swore.   His pony was tethered on the Green and grazed there.  He used to drive to market in Hitchin and drive out for pleasure with a lady – but not his wife. (She was Jack’s aunt – his mother’s sister)

Joe Walkers bakery

Sawford Cottage

Many years ago it was 3 cottages.  Eddie & Liz Shepherd and family lived there – all girls – Gladys, Daisy,  Lily, Violet, Ivy, Rose and Joan.  I think Eddie worked on the railways.  I have no idea who lived there previously, or who owned the cottage.

The cottages along the top (8 – 11 Great Green) were all very old.  Gazeley family next to Sawford Cottage.  Mr Gazeley was very involved with the Men’s Social Club.  For a few years his wife ran the general shop next to Little Lane.  She delivered newspapers and, during the war (1939-1946) was one of those who organised the Comfort Fund.  This raised money to provide gifts – gloves, scarves, etc – for the serving men and women and also the Welcome Home Party in 1947.

8 and 9 Great Green

Sarah Handscombe and her daughter Ethel lived in the next cottage. Sarah was the school cleaner when I was there.  I remember she wore a high black hat and a hessian apron.  Ethel belonged to the Methodist Church.  The one with the gable (No.9) was the home of Fred and Ellen Bell, the blacksmith, and on the end lived a Mr Abbis and his son, Phil.

Cat and Fiddle

Several landlords.  Popular in later years with younger people, but at one time used by Travellers.  The Travellers came to the village occasionally with living in horse-drawn caravans and ? under the hedges.  They sold pegs ? or ground knives and tools. Outside, running across the Green, in the war, was dug an underground air raid shelter. The next house, now the home of Steve Smith (No 6) was once a shop and Post Office. It then became the home of Walter and Lily Christmas.  At the time of their marriage they were both widowed, Lily had one daughter Ruby.  Lily was the eldest sister of the farming Weeden brothers.  Walter was a self-employed jobbing builder and he managed the glove factory on Hitchin Road, Pirton, which gave employment to many women in the village.  It closed in 1947; the staff moving to a factory in Hitchin,

Last block of houses – 3-5 Great Green


Now two houses but was at one time three.  The first one was the home of William Newbury.  He played an active part in Pirton affairs, especially the church; a brass plaque under the west window records his service.  Just outside the back door was the shared well; it was Mrs Newbury’s fridge.  She used to lower jellies etc into the well to help them set.  It was she who made sure there was money to pay for both their sons, Alex and Norman, to be at the Boys Grammar School in Hitchin.  Mr Newbury took his beer at the Cat and Fiddle.

The end house, The Cottage, was at one time lived in by Horace and Peggy Roberts, followed by George and Mabel Reynolds. George worked on Walnut Tree Farm but was also verger at St Marys and gravedigger, as had been his Father.  George Reynolds, apart from his daily work, swept chimneys.  I think Mabel helped at the White Horse.  Later years Mrs Huckle and daughter lived there and the Reynolds family went to the cottage where the Huckles had lived in Priors Hill.  The cottage had one large bedroom and a landing room.  Downstairs was a sitting room and another room which could possibly have been a barn or store when many years ago it was a small farm.  Betty, who lived there, was a railway clerk, chair of Pirton Parish Council and a great supporter of St Marys.  She died in 2002. In the cottage in between, now part of the Newbury’s home lived Mr & Mrs Pearce with one daughter.  I don’t know who owned these houses over the years.


Stoney Yard

So called because of the cobblestone path which ran by the cottages.  I think an open drain ran beside the path.  A Mr & Mrs Arthur Titmuss lived in the cottage next to the road.  He was known as Bradle  – why I have no idea, so his wife was known as Ann Nancy Bradle.  She grumbled at children, especially when pressing tar bubbles which formed on the road after repair.

Following tenants during the war were George and Cordelia French.  They were later re-housed at No.2 Danefield Road.  Delia was a W.I member and for a long time always made the tea with her close neighbour, Minnie Baines.  The others I remember living in the road were Herbert & Gladys Chamberlain, Frank & Mnnie Titmuss, Reg and Lily Lake – she was a  sister to Delia French and in the top cottage a Tom Walker, known as Tom (?).  Frank Titmuss was caretaker of the Village Hall.  The Chamberlains were moved to Danesfield Road.  Frank & Minnie across the road to Post Office Row.  Some years later 1970 – 1980, this row was sold and became two houses.  I do not know who owned the properties.

Workhouse Yard


These cottages were once the village workhouse.  In the one next to the Bury lived the Hoyes. I do not know his occupation.  Albert’s brother Will lived alone next to the pond.  I don’t think he was ever married.  Possibly he had been in the army.  He gardened in the area, now fenced in and had a row of daffodils across the garden.  Also I remember a George Weeden, known as Dickie Weeden, an elderly man who had an allotment in what is now the Recreation Ground, his daughter Olive and her daughter Emmie lived with him.  Olive did washing etc for people in the village.

Who owned the cottages I don’t know but there was often a change in tenants.  After Albert Hoye, came Bert & Gladys Dawson and family.  He was known as Blackie and was the first King Pumpkin. They later moved to 16 Great Green.  It then became the home of Tommie & Ruby Wilde and now their daughter Julie lives there.    After the war it became two houses, both repaired, modernised and greatly improved.



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