Memories of Little Horwood

 Living in a small village and being the middle child of a family of seven, my childhood was very happy. We all had to work hard, but we had lots of fun too.
We all had to get up at the crack of dawn and were quite ready to go to bed early.

All our drinking water had to be fetched in buckets from a stand pipe in the street. We often had to take a kettle of boiling water to thaw the frozen tap in winter. In the back yard we had a large covered tank and two tubs, which held the very valuable rain water.
Each Wednesday morning very early, all doors and windows were closed, and the village streets were deserted, for this was the day the sanitary cart came round. The wooden closets were right at the bottom of the garden, most of them had two seats, one for adults and a small one for children, so each closet had two buckets to be emptied.

We always kept two pigs in the sty, one for the house and one to sell. The profit made on the one sold, paid for the other.

It was a busy time when the pig was killed. There was all the offal to see to, and the lovely liver, and the fat of which some was always taken round to relatives and friends and then they returned the kindness when they had a pig killed. All the odd pieces of meat were made into big pork pies.
The chitterlings had to be thoroughly cleaned in strong salt water and had to be turned and put into fresh salt water every day for a fortnight. The 'leaf, a large piece of fat, had to be cut into small pieces and put into a large saucepan and melted down to make great bowls of lard. The hard pieces that were left were called scratchings and were delicious with salt and bread.
The sides of bacon and hams were salted in a big 'lead', a large flat dish the size of a big table. Salt had to be rubbed into the meat for several weeks, then the sides of bacon and hams were wrapped in muslin cloth and hung in the kitchen to dry.

On Sunday morning two of us made the long journey right up the village to the bake house, one carrying a huge greased baking tin and large joint and the other a can of batter. Almost everyone in the village took their Sunday joint to be cooked like this. The Yorkshire pudding underneath the meat was just too good to describe.

In the spring we went at night time up the ridings to the edge of the woods to listen to the nightingales. On Good Friday everyone went to the woods to gather primroses to decorate the church and chapel and some for the home. The men spent the day on the allotments setting the early potatoes.

One of the year's loveliest days was May Day. My grandmother had a beautiful garden full of old-fashioned flowers. She used to pick a small bunch for the younger children and the older ones each had a Crown Imperial. We carried these flowers round from door to door singing as we went, all dressed up in our prettiest dresses, with daisy chains for hair bands, necklaces and bracelets.

May Day Song

'A May garland I have brought you
Before your door it stands
It's nothing but a sprout
But it's well spread about
By the work of the Good Lord's hands.
'Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen We wish you happy May We've come to show you our May garland Because it is May Day.'

When anyone in the village died, the church-bell was tolled at once and again before the funeral. All curtains and blinds were drawn over the cottage windows if the funeral procession had to pass by.

K.A. Savage, Little Horwood


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