Memories of Dagnall

 Dagnall was, and still is, one of the two hamlets in the Parish of Edlesborough. The seven farms that surrounded the village, together with nineteen cottages, the Mission Church and the parsonage, belonged to the Ashridge estate. Lord Brownlow was responsible for the curate's living.
All the properties situated between the allotment gardens and the parsonage, and land stretching back to the Studham Road, were owned by Messrs Batchelor Brothers. Within the Batchelor's property were a brewery, a malthouse, piggeries, and cottages for those employed at the brewery. There was also a small private chapel, as a result of some dispute with the Methodists and the Church of England. The Batchelors' private house was situated at the northwest end of the village. Near the entrance gate was a building called 'The Tramp Ward' that provided shelter for one night for any tramp on his wanderings. In the morning he was given a drink of small beer at the brewery before continuing his journey.

Beer was also brewed at the Cross Keys public house for sale in the house and for customers requiring larger quantities in pins, firkins and larger barrels. (Farmers provided beer for their men during harvest, haymaking and threshing.)
There were three other public houses in the village, but one, the Golden Rule, only had a six-day licence.

The main roads were little better than cart tracks, and tar roads were unknown until the early 1920's. The iron tyres of the farm carts would sink into the surface of the road to a depth of four or five inches. Footways on the roadside were in the centre of the grass verges and became very muddy during the winter months.

The doctor came from Dunstable, five miles away, sometimes on horseback, at other times in a brougham driven by a coachman. Medicines were dispensed by the doctor himself and left to be collected from an open window of his dispensary—often by someone travelling on foot to Dunstable.

The two bakeries in the village delivered to the door daily, as well as to neighbouring villages. Several butchers from other villages delivered to Dagnall in their traders' carts drawn by horse or pony. These carts were totally enclosed. Access to the goods was obtained by lowering the tailboard on chains, and the tailboard then became the cutting-up block. Spring balance scales hung from an arm extended from the top of the cart.

A four-wheeled horse trolley, laden with hardware, paraffin, candles and almost anything you cared to ask for, came round once a week. The draper brought his wares in a tilted cart, and from him mothers would buy yards of shirting to make shirts for their men folk.

Milk, however, was not delivered to the door for a good number of years. Skim milk was collected direct from the farm and cost about a halfpenny a pint. The cream from this milk was made into butter.

A sub-post office and general shop catered for most needs, and there was also a general shop attached to one of the public houses. The postman delivered the mail from Little Gaddesden, either by bicycle or on foot.

The mains water supply is comparatively recent. Before its arrival drinking water had to be raised from the wells some fifty feet in depth. Rain water from the house roofs was stored in underground tanks and used for washing. There was, of course, no main drainage, and toilets were usually situated at the far end of the garden. Sinks and drains discharged into dumb wells that allowed the water to soak into the chalk.

The Mission Church was a church on Sundays and a school during the week—until the new school opened on 11 January 1909. The single bell at the church summoned the congregation to worship and the boys and girls to school. One Sunday the churchwarden, who was very deaf, was tugging away at the bell-rope when the clanger parted company with the bell. Not being too sure if his hearing had deteriorated further, the churchwarden continued to ring. When the village blacksmith entered the church the churchwarden asked him if the bell was still ringing. The blacksmith shook his head, and the bell has remained silent until this day.

Written the  husband of Gladys Putman, Dagnall

Extracted from 'A Pattern Hundreds' (1975) and reproduced with the kind permission of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes

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