Memories of Emberton


Emberton Emberton is a small village situated in the north of the county, one and a half miles from Olney, with a square Clock Tower standing in the centre, in which a bell was tolled to call to the men working in the fields.
There was until recently a blacksmith's forge-always very busy shoeing horses for hunting, working on farms and drawing traps. A four-wheeled 'fly', driven by Arther Brown, met all trains arriving at Olney Station—now closed.
Cattle were taken on foot by drovers to markets at Bedford, Northampton and Wellingborough, and any cattle found straying were put into 'the pound', a field attached to Manor Farm, until claimed, a small charge being made.
Near the forge was the village pump where women filled their buckets for a day's supply. It was never known to go dry.

A horse show was held annually on Bank holiday in one of the farm's fields.
At Emberton Feast and other holiday occasions Morris Dancers danced around the Tower—afterwards taking refreshment at the Bell or the Bear Inn (now gone). Sports were held for children and grown-ups and a meat tea was provided in the Dutch barn. School children danced round the maypole.
In the winter a Plum Pudding Party was held in the village schoolroom—when plum puddings boiled in many of the surrounding cottages were served— everyone holding a hot plate in readiness.

On Sundays people carried their dinner to be cooked at the village bakehouse, the meat in a baking tin covered with a cloth and Yorkshire pudding batter in a jug or can, and at 'drawing time' would be seen hurrying home with it all ready to eat.

Across the River Ouse is Weston Underwood where the poet Cowper sat in his summer-house in The Wilderness writing his poems and where in the spring is to be seen a carpet of snowdrops.

A. Fairey, Emberton

Emberton where I was born in 1892 has always seemed a happy, friendly village, partly owing to the lasting influence of my grandparents, parents and cousin who lived and served in the Old Rectory for nearly a hundred years. My parents regularly visited every house and cottage, my mother with the shawl which she knitted for each new baby, while my father had his sticky pockets stuffed with almond toffee and peppermints for the children.

We always kept huge dogs, Great Danes and Russian Wolfhounds.
Our front gate was always open and the villagers allowed to walk through the garden and use our field for picnics.

The lovely church was nearly always full, extra chairs being needed for Christmas and Harvest festivals, and the six bellringers and our churchyard were the pride of the countryside. Most of the stained-glass windows were put in to the memory of my grandparents and uncles; Grandmamma's is dedicated to 'Faith, Hope and Charity'. Poor thing, she must have needed all three with thirteen children on £250 a year, but they all grew up hale and hearty.

Seventy years ago in Emberton the roads were terrible, covered with small stones and needing the constant use of steamrollers which terrified our horses.
The climate was quite different. For months there was hot sunshine and all meals were taken at a long table under the big plane trees, but the winters were bitter and we skated for days on the river and flooded fields between Weston and the Olney road.

We made our own pleasure, and as the families varied from seven of us to thirteen children at both Filgrave and Clifton rectories, it was easy to collect two teams for hockey and cricket matches and every big house had its own tennis court. My elder sisters were renowned for arranging plays and concerts which meant three months' hard work, and one sister spent chilly hours in the cellar painting scenery. Twice a week twenty lucky children came to learn choruses for flowers and fairies and were quite contented with two sweets at the end.
We also taught country dancing and took parties of boys and girls to Tyringham and Gayhurst in fancy dress. One of our plays was A Pageant of the Queens, acted by twenty WI members, beginning with the poisoning of Queen Boadicea and ending with the Queen Mother. No one was anxious to be Bloody Mary so I borrowed a ruby velvet frock and leapt delightedly into my three-minute scene set to music in which I was signing a Death Warrant. My brother wrote an appropriate verse for each Queen which we sent to Buckingham Palace and in three days we had a charming letter from Lady Delia Peel, telling us that the Queen Mother had thoroughly enjoyed reading, them.

We could usually count on at least four dances at Christmas at Tyringham, Crawley Grange and Gayhurst and the satin or silk long dresses, sometimes sparkling with silver sequins, low necks—but not too low—and white kid gloves to the shoulders were so very pretty. We had pale pink or blue programmes with pencils danging on matching silk to write in partners' names, but to have the same partner more than three times was considered highly improper. The sequined, handpainted and feathered fans were enchanting, and there was great variety in the dances: waltzes, polkas, Washington Post, Pas de Quatres and the Lancers in which one was invariably swung off -one's feet.

The river too was a great joy, as we had a large boat called the 'Old Aunt Jane' in which we rowed up to an island near Filgrave and built a fire to boil the kettle. I dreaded going under Olney bridge towards the mill because the great wheel threatened to drag us down and grind us to bits.

Sidney Sams, Emberton


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