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Original typed record of Sydney Giles' memories transcribed by Sarah Gilbert

Recollections of Burton Latimer

Being born in October 1916 my earliest recollection was a visit from the local Policemen requesting attention to a small chink of light showing through the Blackout as at that period of time visits by the German Zeppelins were expected. This must have been prior to the Armistice which was signed at the eleventh Hour on the eleventh Day on the eleventh month.

Finedon Road Infants School pupils in 1919
School started at an early age and I clearly remember being taken from Spencer Street during the first day of the Autumn Term exactly 6 weeks prior to my third Birthday to the Church of England Infants School at the bottom of Rosebery Street adjacent to the Mission Room which was run by the Church Army on Sunday Evenings at 6.30 pm. Boys wore knee length short trousers and a Jersey and the Girls a Dress and a pinafore over it. 9.a.m. to Noon and 1.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. Slates were used as writing material for the early years and I cannot remember text books being used. The Misses Lewis were two very dedicated Teachers and one taught at the Infants School and the other at the Church School. They were always in Church on Sunday and went about doing good. There were two other Infants Schools in the town, another Church Infants near to the Church and in the Middle of the Town an Infants School providing for Non conformists. At 7 years of age, we went to the Big School as it was then known, with a choice of the Council School situated in the middle of the town and the Church of England Endowed School almost next to the church. In those days all education was catered for in the town up to the school-leaving age which was at 14 years. At eleven years, selected pupils could sit for the Scholarship and one Boy and a Girl were entitled to have a free place at Kettering Grammar School for Boys or Kettering High School for Girls. The rest of these two schools were filled by paying Day Pupils mostly tradesmen's sons and daughters. Kettering Central School which was co-educational catered for promising pupils who were slightly below the Grammar School standard but very few places were available. Discipline was good and fair and the cane used if necessary for boys only. But reference to one's parents was often sufficient to restore good order. Education was good, with the three ‘R’s a priority. Mr. G.J. Talbutt was the Headmaster of the Church School and Mr. “Bunny” Harris of the Council School. The Headmaster of the Church School was expected to superintend the running of the Sunday School, half an hour plus part of the Morning Church Service and three quarters of an hour in the afternoon.
Rev Lethbridge

The Rector was a bachelor, Louis Hubert Lethbridge, and was well loved by his flock. The rectory and gardens were maintained to a high standard and were opened to the public for Garden Fetes and Band Concerts in aid of Church funds. Alas in later years, due to economic reasons, the Rectory was reduced in size and finally dismantled and a new rectory erected for the incumbent. One must be fair to add that in earlier days the incumbent enjoyed a private income and was able to employ a large staff of servants. The services were termed as ‘Middle of the Road’ neither too high nor too low. The statue of the Virgin Mary which is housed in a niche over the North Porch was provided by the Sunday School as the original had been destroyed by Cromwell’s men. The services were in those days attended by the faithful few and the decline in churchgoing was put down to the large amounts of time and money spent in leisure pursuits.

Children's Games

Childrens’ Games used to follow a season with no noticeable indication that one season was ending and another commencing. No doubt certain games were encouraged by commercial interests by the display of whips & tops, the small clay marbles in their traditional colours of green, red, yellow and blue and the larger ‘dosser’ in transparent glass with a delightful spiral of colours to view. Whips were often home-made using a stick and a piece of string or cord. The venue for these games was usually the street as in those days motor traffic was at a comparatively low level and gave ample warning of its approach with its noisy engines added to a slower speed. Marbles were placed inside a small chalk drawn ring, each competitor sharing the total number. A chalk line would be drawn at an agreed distance and the competitors would in turn attempt to knock the marbles out of the ring which would be retained. Marbles on the line were always a problem. Another popular game was to roll the marbles along the gutter using one marble each and this was played in pairs. The aim was to either hit your opponents marble or be able to span the distance between them with the hand. The winner pocketed both marbles.

Tip and Cat or Catty was very popular and relied on home made equipment. The Tip being a straight piece of wood about four feet in length and the Cat being the length of a pencil but just over twice the thickness and sharpened to a point at each end so that it would rise when struck sharply by the Tip. The Cat was placed in the gutter to form an angle between the road and the path and hooked by the stick as far as possible. The aim of the opponent or opponents was to field the Cat and catch it or try to hit the Tip which was now placed across the gutter where the Cat had formerly been placed. Success in either of these operations would mean that the innings had closed. Failure to achieve the above, the striker had three chances to remove the Cat as far as possible by using the tip to elevate it and hitting it as far as possible away from the Block. After the three attempts had been made a score was made of the number of footsteps from the final resting place of the Cat to the block hole. If the number was thought to be attainable it was accepted but if thought to be unattainable the request would be to ‘measure it’. The winner would be the one with the highest score after an agreed number of innings.

Early football games were played in the street with a pigs bladder begged from the local butcher this was the best medium to use to avoid broken windows. During this period there was no recognised Recreation Ground but local fields were used at the risk of being chased off by an irate farmer usually on horseback. Coats were used as goalposts. The game was often terminated abruptly when the owner of the ‘ball’ was called in by a parent to go to bed. The streets were lit by gas and it was not until about 1929 that the Electricity Bill was passed to provide this new source of power for the nation. Each lamp post had an horizontal bar which served as ladder rest and this was an excellent place to secure a rope which made a circular swing. Girls mostly had their own games such as Hop Scotch, Skipping and ball games. Both sexes used to play Blind Man's Bluff, O’Grady, Whats the Time Mr. Wolf? Charades, Rounders and Hot Rice.

Children Comics were popular and it was often necessary to let Father read them first. The two that come to mind are ‘Funny Wonder’ and Illustrated Chips’ featuring ‘Weary Willie and Tired Tim’, ‘Felix the Cat’, and the Stars of Silent Films: ‘Charlie Chaplin’. ‘Buster Keaton’, ‘Harold Lloyd’ ‘Chester Conklin’, and many others.

Like children in all time, mischief was done. Adjacent doors in a terrace would be tied together by cord and both doors rapped smartly. Annoying for the victims, but funny to the perpetrators. Fireworks were very popular and used for mischief, and the Little Demon, price ½d was a firm favourite. Despite more explosive fireworks being on display in large letters a sign reading A BOY WANTED HERE but, in small print, some Standard Fireworks.

Old perambulator wheels were much in demand to construct go-carts which used to provide a most thrilling ride. Hoops were popular with girls using a wooden one and boys the heavy metal variety. Home made kites were popular and usually flown in the fields, many used to end their days tangled in overhead telephone wires.


The General Strike in 1926 lasted nine days from 3 to 12th May, but the disturbances were not co-ordinated and the then Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin let things take their course despite his Cabinet demanding more dramatic action. The existence of Radio made the loss of Newspapers and the growing number of private cars shortage of public transport, minor inconveniences in contrast to an expected paralysing influence. The Miners' Strike went on for another six months and in the end all they fought for was lost, shorter hours, better wages and in addition Union Funds were so depleted that further strike action could not be supported for many years.

Even in the difficult years after the Great War opportunities for employment in the Town were fairly secure for both men and women. Boot and Shoe Factories provided the main occupation for men but women were used to stitch the upper leather. Clothing for Men was the popular occupation for Women and Girls with outworkers used for the less attractive tasks. Whitney & Westley operated a shoe factory in Finedon Street, Buckby Bros. in Kettering Road, The Coles Boot Company at the top of Spencer Street. Tom Fox had a small Heel factory in Spencer Street. Clothing Factories were operated by The Co-operative Society in Station Road, The Ideal Clothers also in Station road, Shortlands in the High Street and the Tradesmen also found work for a number of persons. The Railways which were busier in those days employed Signalmen, Plate Layers, Shunters and there was a limited employment in the Ironstone Mines in the Finedon/Irthlingborough Area. Quite a number of men travelled each day to Kettering and there were people from the surrounding area who found work in the Town. One man, Bill Drage, came from Bozeat daily and did this for a number of years. There were four medium sized farms and three of the houses are still be found. Two at the top of Church Street, one at the bottom of Newman Street, Hilly Farm in the middle of the High Street Denton ’s Farm stood across the road from Hilly farm and land was used for a housing estate and the farmhouse pulled down. A 48 hour week was operated over 5½ days with one weeks Annual Holiday which was unpaid, this was during the first week of August. The favourite venue being Great Yarmouth with Clacton-on-Sea and Skegness being other choices. There were passenger trains operating from Finedon, and at Burton Latimer for Isham which served London to the South and Leicester, Manchester , Sheffield, Nottingham and Scotland to the North. A train ran from Kettering to Cambridge and a line went from Northampton via Wellingborough, Irthlingborough and Thrapston to Peterborough to the East Coast.

The fact that the Railway was a long way from the Town did go against this form of transport and put the buses in an advantage. The Railway for reasons of providing a more direct route had to be constructed in the Ise Valley. There were only one direct train to London, the 7.40am. which did the journey 1hr.49 minutes despite being a stopping train to Bedford. Day Trips to London Blackpool, Alton Towers, Leamington Spa were well supported plus Evening Excursions to London for the Theatre. Most trains went either to Kettering or to Northampton to St. John’s Station which was later made into a car park and the line taken up. Finedon Station was a popular source of supply of cigarette for boys too young to smoke officially, three cigarettes for 1d, the brand being Crayol. There were also a good view of goods train shunting which could be viewed from the Railway Bridge . Adjacent to Burton Latimer for Isham Station (later the ‘for Isham’ was dropped) was the Burton Latimer Gas Works which was a private company. Mr. Boxwell and his two sons provided the management. Ron Boxwell did most of his courting whilst cycling around the Town first to light and then to extinguish the lamps. This was prior to the inception of clockwork timers.

Another type of gas was used to illuminate cycles this was produced by regulating water drops on to carbide and an excellent light was produced. Oil lamps were also used in the early Motor Cars and horse drawn traps. From 1929 onwards a cable had been laid from Kettering Electricity Works to supply the town with a new type of power and it is interesting to note that the telephone was laid underground in those days. There was a gradual change from gas to electricity for lighting but some people were wary in using this new form of heat for cooking.

Entertainment, Sport and Pastimes

Wireless came in during 1923 with the invention of a Crystal Set which needed no power at all. This did require a tall outside aerial and the station was obtained by finding a spot on a small piece of crystal with a thin wire called a Cat's Whisker. Headphones were used to pick the sound. Later came the valved set, powered by a large dry cell battery and an accumulator, and the signal was received by loudspeaker. Kit forms were available and were very popular at the time. Popular songs had a boost by the radio and they were also circulated by the Music Hall and Song Sheets. The local cinema enjoyed a profitable time in the early twenties and 1929 saw the advent of the "Talkies" and the first films to be shown at the Electric Palace were ‘Woman to Woman’, ‘The Rainbow Man’, ‘Flight’ and ‘Atlantic’ (based on the loss of the Titanic). During the reign of the silent films, music was supplied by a local pianist who had to adapt the music to the mood of the film. The names of Cecil Hickman, Mrs Wood and Tom ‘Concertina’ White come to mind. Ten-Part Serials were put on to draw in a regular weekly audience with two standing out in memory: ‘The perils of Pauline’ and ‘Casey of the Coastguards’. On Saturday Evenings most young people went to Kettering to the cinema, there being a choice of four.

Dancing became very popular and was a good starter in getting to know the opposite sex. Most of the courting was done by country walks; the motor car was only for the few. The local footpath rights of way were well guarded despite yearly ploughing up of cultivated fields. Most stiles and gates were occupied by courting couples. Morals on the surface seemed good but many young people had to arrange for an early wedding in those days.

Club life flourished and the same clubs are still in existence during the eighties. The Finedon Street Working Mens Club in Finedon Street, The Britannia Club at the bottom of Newman Street. The Band Club in the High Street and the Conservative Club in Church Street.

The range of activity was varied with Film Shows, Lending Library, Free and Easy Concerts, Skittles, Darts, Quoits played on a Clay Bed out of doors, Whist and Cribbage Leagues and in some clubs Snooker and Billiards could be played. A very sympathetic Sick Club was run for members which apart from providing cash in the time of greatest need also visited the sick member. A Sports Day for Children was a red letter day. There were five public houses in the Town all supplied by different Breweries: The Dukes Arms, The Waggon and Horses, The Thatchers Arms. The Red Cow and the Horse and Groom. Drinking had become far more civilised and only the odd drunk could be seen and then only on a Saturday night. Drug taking was unknown. Woman gradually were accepted into pubs and clubs, starting at first with the weekend. But in most cases the poor wife was left alone at home and had to eke out the family purse to allow the husband to have his pleasures.

The Church Army supported a Captain to take the C.of E. Service on Sunday and to manage the Preston Hall during the week to try to keep the youth of the Town out of temptation. There were two fairly good full sized billiard tables and other games could be played. For Evening Classes it was necessary to travel to Kettering and also for the use of a Swimming Bath. Speaking of the Preston Hall, this was built as a memorial to William Preston who had a vested interest in Ironstone Mining in the Area. His widow lived in what are now the Town Council Offices and the stables can be seen being the building on the left of the entrance gate. Two grooms were kept and it was a feature to see Mrs Preston setting forth in one of her two carriages for a drive. She was hardly seen abroad in the Town and very few people got to know her after her husband had passed away. Once a year we used to go on a Sunday Afternoon to hear a Band Concert in aid of Charity usually on Feast Sunday.

The Billiard Hall in Alexandra Street, later to become the St. Johns Ambulance Room is worthy of a mention. There were four tables and were a favourite rendevous for the youth who came for somewhere to go and for the billiard addict. It was very ably owned and managed by ‘Boss’ Abe Sturgess, so named because he had one glass eye.

Any undue noise or horseplay would be punished by a period of being barred. He was also a very likeable character and had a cross to bear having the care of an invalid wife. The Church also owned a small hall within the Rectory Garden and aptly called the Orchard Room. This was used for small Church Socials and concerts and like the Preston Hall fell into decay during later years.

The Cricket Field was opposite the Hall and owned by Squire Harpur who would pay 5/- for any Hall window broken in normal play from the recognised square. There were many Characters who used to turn out for the Club side although very few honours were won by the Club. One had to travel to Rothwell, Bozeat or Wollaston to find success and the latter had at least two players who graduated to the county side. In order to stimulate interest and attract new players the County Club and Ground used to send a strong side each season.

The football team played at various location until thay finally settled in Dentons Field which was later to become the Recreation Ground. They were successful in their own sphere and some players graduated to better clubs. The goalkeeper, Len Ketcher being an example. Billy Perkins also a goalkeeper, and played for Aston Villa for a time.

Chapel and Church

Sunday was still a day of rest which marked it a lot different from any other day. Churchgoing was declining but Roman Catholics were increasing and in a small hall over a shop at the Cross, Mass was said to good congregations. The Salvation Army struggled holding almost nightly services in a corrugated hall next to the Britannia Club, apart from outdoor worship in the town on Sunday. They boasted a small Brass Band.

They used to sell War Cry and the Young Soldier in the public houses and clubs on a Saturday night. The Wesleyan Chapel held their services in Duke Street and the movement as a whole was working for Unity which was not gained until 1932 under the banner of Methodism. There was no resident Minister and they were supplied by the Kettering Circuit.

The Baptist Chapel was in Meeting Lane and they were supported well enough to have a resident Minister who resided at the Manse. They also had a fairly large assembly room and a smaller Lower School room opposite. This Chapel was a strong force in the Town, standing very strongly against drink and gambling in all forms. From 1924 onwards, religious broadcasts brought worship into many homes.

During the early years of the decade, Sunday saw most people dressed in Sunday Best and to protect this precious garment, white bib & brace overalls were worn for Sunday Lunch in particular. A lasting memory was the Family Sunday Evening Walk held after Church over well-worn footpaths. A favourite walk was over the fields to Isham - the route being over the allotments (later to be built over) through the fields and over the Hurdy Gurdy Bridge over the main railway line. The derelict Water Mill would be passed, which was always a place of mystery, and then up a short hill to the ‘Lilacs’ and a seat in the garden with the reward of a packet of Smith’s Crisps complete with the little blue salt bag. Simple pleasures giving lasting memories.

The Patronal Festival of St. Mary’s Church was celebrated on the first Sunday in September and was simply called Feast Sunday. On that day all friends and relations came into the town to take tea and walk the town. The buses were greatly augumented and the press of people was so great that the roads were overcrowded. There were little or no organised functions apart from an afternoon Band Concert held in Preston Paddock. The various pubs and clubs did a roaring trade.

To mark the Feast, Henry Thurston used to bring the Fair and it was held at the bottom of Pioneer Avenue and later, when the land was developed, behind Mr. Denton’s farm house. Also, to mark the occasion, an extra weeks holiday was added to the one months Summer Break from School. The grandeur of the steam engines kept in pristine condition, the sound of the steam organ, the sedate prancing of the galloping horses, the smell of the naptha flares, the thrill of the chair-o-planes all combined to keep us enraptured. After the departure of the Fair, finances could be recovered by searching the ground particularly under the roundabouts.

Three weeks later, Finedon Feast held, and there was an exodus from the town to repay visits. Kettering Feast came at the end of June and the Fair was on a much grander scale and it was usual to pay a visit. Kettering Feast was also a landmark for gardeners being the aim to be digging new potatoes and gathering green peas at this date.

Allotments were plentiful, and those were some of the leisure activities of the Day, along withwith pigeon-keeping. A supply of fresh vegetables all the year round was the aim and within the compass of the serious allotmenteer. Quite a number had a small tool shed which was always useful in a sudden shower and meant that tools could be left on site. Often a garden seat was added so that one could rest and admire the growing crops. Most of the Working Mens Clubs used to hold Flower and Vegetable Shows and the name of W.Turner appeared to carry off a goodly proportion of the awards. There was usually waiting lists for vacant plots. The field was rather unique having no less than three distinct kinds of soil: heavy clay - unworkable in wet weather but useful in times of drought; light loam - easy to work but inclined to dry, but in the drought periods; and finally land that was full of ironstone but fairly easy to work. This land has been built over and is the area west of the Playing Fields. There were also allotments in other parts of the town. Most households in pre-1914 houses situated in Station Road, Duke Street, Finedon Street and Alexandra Street kept two pigs, one for bacon and the other for the butcher. This also gave a by-product in the form of pig manure which found its way to the allotments. At that period, all butchers, with the exception of one, slaughtered their own animals and the beasts were selected from the local markets and pigs from households. The pig sty was placed right at the bottom of the garden and was constructed of brick with a tiled roof. Straw was collected by gleaning the fields at harvest time. The majority of houses built during this period were built in a terrace or as semi-detached with a common entry to the back garden. Cattle were driven by Drovers through the town to Kettering Market and they were usually on route at the time the children were going to school. Gardens were sometimes invaded and the odd beast had to be rounded up after trampling crops. One name stands out as a Drover, that of Mr. Groom, who was an expert.

The Home

Monday was the common Wash Day, the water mostly being heated by the use of a "copper" housed in an outhouse sometime at the end of the garden, fuelled by burning a variety of cheap waste materials. Off-cut leather bits could be collected cheaply from the local factories and bags of Coke from the Gas Works was also available. Coal dust damped down burnt well with wood.

Usually, the man of the house prepared the hot water for the Weekly Wash and after the children had been seen off to school, operations commenced. Despite the assistance of a dolly tub and a washing board, it was very hard work and the two popular soaps in use were Hudsons and White Windsor. A Reckitts Blue Bag was used to whiten the whites. The washing was boiled in the copper and afterwards the dirty water had to be ladled out by a small bowl with a handle. On Monday cold meat left over from the Sunday joint sufficed for the noon-time meal with pastry sweet to follow. Mother was far to busy to prepare a meal on that day. The afternoon was usually spent with feet up after such an arduous morning. Every back garden was festooned with billowing washing like an armada sailing into battle. Tuesday was ‘Dashing away with a smoothing iron’, the heat source being the gas stove or on top of the kitchen range. Later in the decade electric irons were made available.

For the Bodily Wash, a tin bath was used with the water heated in the copper or by large kettles on top of the kitchen range or on a trivet by the side of the fire. When not in use, the tin bath was hung on a nail in the wash house after being emptied out by the small bowl. The bath itself was taken usually in front of the fire in very cold weather after the children had retired or in the wash house with an old mat place over the crack at the bottom of the door to keep out a draught. One bath a week was considered sufficient but if the man of the house had a dirty job, a strip wash in front of the fire was the norm. A clothes horse in front of the fire was used to dry and air the clothes in the event of inclement weather outside. The best room in the house was called the parlour or 'front room' and this was only used to entertain company particularly at Christmastide or when the Rector called. The pattern of the household chores was plenty of elbow grease bearing in mind that electric power was not available until the end of the decade. Manual carpet sweepers were used. Refrigerators were unknown apart from ice boxes which could only be used in the larger town where ice was available. The main storage for perishable goods was a meat safe which was more or less a wooden frame covered by a fly proof gauze and placed on the north side of the house if at all possible. Milk was delivered daily, in the early days by churn and measured in a jug at the doorstep and later bottled and pasteurised as an hygiene measure as Dairy Herds were not all T.B. Tested free.

Daily Bread

Pownall's Baker's Cart in Bird Street
Bread was delivered daily and besides the local Co-operative Society there were five other bakers in the Town all offering delivering. Wilf Sturgess baked in his coverted parlour in a terraced house at the top of Finedon Street and at the bottom of the same street Mr. Partridge and his son ran a bakery in an outhouse next to his house. Bobby Pownall operated in Kettering Road opposite Bakehouse Lane, Mr. Smith in the High Street at the bottom of Pigotts Lane and Mr. Capps (Billy) baked opposite the Church School and almost next door to the Infants School. Besides baking bread, family dinners could be taken to the Bakehouse and the big day for this was on a Sunday and it was a common sight to see a procession of fathers in a constant procession to and from the Bakehouse the hands being protected from the hot tins by an oven cloth which was also draped over the dinner. The dinners were mostly meat surrounded by either roast potatoes or Yorkshire Pudding. Slow cooking stews were left overnight and the toughest meat came out very tender. How perhaps up to one hundred dinners of all sizes could all be cooked at the same time and be collected by their owners without some ungodly mixup has puzzled many people. Not many people made their own bread but live yeast was freely available at any bakery. Cakes were baked and the varieties were still being made over 50 years later. Ice Buns, Vanilla Slices, Doughnuts, Cream Horns, besides all the varieties of cakes such as Dundee, Madeira Cherry, Seed and Date but, at this time, large companies were being formed to supply nationwide and Lyons who were famous for their Corner Tea Shops in London and were large suppliers of tea were reaching the small corner grocery shops with their Swiss Rolls and other brands.


The Corner shop was a feature of the twenties and traces can still be seen of conversions back to dwelling houses and of ten terraced houses offered an opportunity to convert the Parlour into a small shop. The Co-operative Society had two Grocery shops, one in the High Street and one in Duke Street. There was a large private grocer opposite the Cross which was owned by Alfred Barlow & Son. The Co-operative Society ran a butchers shop and slaughterhouse as did Frank Barlow at the northern end of the High Street. Mr. Blakesley had a shop at the bottom of Finedon Street which was later taken over by ‘Queenie’ Palmer and her husband. Elmore & Son of Kettering ran a branch shop in the High Street. The Co-op also ran a drapery shop which was matched by Mrs. Barlow’s shop next door the Family Grocers Shop whilst the Co-op furniture shop was countered by A.J. Wittering & Co. on the corner of Bakehouse Lane who tragically was found drowned in his own well. There was little pre-packaging of goods, tea came in wooden plywood chests packed loose also as was sugar in one c.w.t sacks which were very much in demand for backing home made mats. Lard, butter, margarine, dried fruits, commodities all came in bulk and biscuits in metal airtight tins about one foot square and were sold loose but gradually pre packed goods made a slow introduction. Shopping was a more leisurely pursuit as each item was weighed at the time of purchase. Biscuits were housed in a sloping glass fronted display unit which held about 16 tins with all the lids removed. Most of the smaller commodities were housed in small draws of in distinctive metal containers. Butter was patted to shape after weighing and a distinctive emblem was impressed on top. Cash was the order of the day and little or no cheques were passed. To avoid long waiting for turn in grocers' shops and to assist the elderly, representatives of the shop used to call for orders which would be delivered later in the week and the cash for same was collected on the next visit.

Tally men abounded and for some it was the only way to afford new clothes. Three shillings would give a credit of £3 and pro rata which was repaid in 20 weeks. Some vouchers were accepted by a wide variety of shops but the co-operative Society had their own scheme. Christmas Clubs were run by most butchers and grocers in order to supply extra items for the table. Late shopping on Friday evenings was available and being Pay Day was the most popular time to purchase the weekly requirements. Milk tokens were expected to be used which did avoid the cost or collection by the milkman.

Local Characters

In the twenties there was a more static population which meant that everybody knew everybody and the various Pubs, Clubs, Church & Chapel organisations, Football & Cricket Clubs meant that there was strong bond forged in the Town and no account of these times would be complete without a brief mention of some of them.

Nicknames abounded and were passed down from father to son Most persons with the name of Eady were called ‘Dash’ Beeby’s were called ‘Pistol’ (Son of a gun) Then there was ‘Trump’ Sharp, ‘Wocker’ Turner,’ Nicey’ Johnson ‘Spluff’ Capps, One, tragically to die at a young age with T.B.,’Quiller’ Underwood, ‘Bunny’ Panter, ‘Spazzer’ Mason, who kept a petrol station at the south end of the High Street and lived in an old ironstone farm house. Curly Pearson who kept a small filling station at bottom of Station Road, and was dressed in shorts winter and summer. It was very difficult to discover the origins of these names. ‘Crutch’ Tarry had a very deformed leg and apart from selling the Kettering Football Telegraph known and sold as the "Pink 'Un" was fit for little else. Bill Pentelow was the town chimney sweep and the favourite catch word just before Christmas was ‘how many are you behind’. He never seemed to lose a sweep's look even in his Sunday best. Street corner lounging was very popular with certain spots attracting the same characters. Barber shops were sure places of interesting gossip and the most renowned was the Finedon Street shop of O.J. Benford joining the Finedon Street Working Men's Club. It was a case of no haircuts for boys on a Saturday Morning, that time being reserved for gents. Cut throat razors were in use during the early part of the decade and quite a number of men had this one close shave per week. In the home, cut throat razors were used until the safety razor came into being. Beside being a barber, O.J. was a well known entertainer and was noted for his impersonations of Stanley Holloway with the classic monologue ‘Albert Ramsbottom and the Lion’. OJ Was also the local photographer and also carried out a developing & printing service. Quite a man of parts. Mr. Swann had a barber's shop near to Barlow the Grocers and Mr. Skevington at the bottom of Pigotts Lane. You could regard the Barbers Shop as a place of entertainment. There were a few styles for the younger man but for most it was just a trim or short back and sides. Unless you were prepared for a long wait, it was advisable not to attend for a hair cut at noon time during the working week because of the constant interruptions of Shoe Factory Workers calling for a ¼ oz. of snuff usually served from a 7lb. tin from a Sheffield Firm. Snuff was taken as a substitute for smoking as the latter was not allowed in factories.

Burton Latimer Pits

Most gardeners are aware of very stony grounds in some parts of the Town due to traces of ironstone. There is still plenty of evidence of tramway tracks in the area of Finedon, Irthlingborough, Kettering, Cranford, Cransley, Slipton and Wellingborough. On a cloudy night the glow of Furnaces at Kettering, Islip Cransley & Wellingborough were very noticeable. The Burton Latimer Pits were on the eastern part of the town from an Area at the back of the cemetery and the line crosses the Cranford Road about halfway between the Church and the Black Bridge and continues on either side of the road. At the Black Bridge the ore was loaded from the 3ft. gauge by tipping in the wider Railway gauge on the Midland Railway Line that ran between Kettering and Cambridge. Even up to the the nineteen eighties the sidings still exist and despite peeling paint the name Nellsons Sidings can be read. The Pits were opened about the mid eighties and in 1891 were taken over by the Burton Latimer Ironstone Company (Jointly owned by Stanton Coal and Iron Company & James Oakes, Limited until 1921 when the workings were abandoned probably due to becoming uneconomical). There were two tipper docks both sides of the Black Bridge. They were worked by Steam Locomotives and in retrospect must have given quite a number of employment taking the whole operation together. After 1921 the Finedon Pits were still active and the workings went underground to Irthlingborough and some Burtonians were employed by these several workings.

The Isham Pits though in the Parish of Burton Latimer started from the Midland Railway Line (Kettering – Wellingborough Main Line) the line then went East to cross Polwell Lane. Later Thomas Gray were to mine for ganister which is a lining for furnaces and operated for many years later. In those days the Railway Station used to read BURTON LATIMER FOR ISHAM which probably accounts for Isham Pits. Today traces of the tracks remain, some forested by nature but still very traceable. There are reports of an old engine shed still standing but used as a farm building.

For a full account of Ironstone Mining in Burton, click here

The War Memorial

To mark the 1914/18 Great War, a Memorial, consisting of spiral steps topped by a tall pillar with St. George on top, was constructed on the Cross in the centre of the town but this was later removed to Preston Gardens - one supposes to take out a traffic hazard as the column obstructed the view of vehicles joining the A6 from Rosebank. The new position did not appear to give the monument the same authority but in general it seemed to be for the best. (Note - the memarial was subsequently restored to its original location when further realignments were carries out at the High Street/Church Stree junction). The names of all the dead was recorded, and for such a small town the losses were severe. In those days, the two minutes silence was always held on the actual Anniversary Day and at the exact hour. That is the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and all traffic stopped and the factory machines silenced there were many signs of War injury apart from men with a leg or an arm missing there were cases of Shell Shock and there were men who suffered from the effects of poison gas. The British Legion was formed and was a very flourishing organisation and did a lot to relieve suffering and fight authority in obtaining pension for the needy. It was always a harrowing time at school when children who had lost fathers became very distressed at the Armistice Service.

Growth of the Town

Being near to Kettering did not give the town much opportunity to expand and seemed doomed in the future to be absorbed by its larger neighbour. Council Houses were built on the north side of Station Road known as the New Estate but the two spurs East & West Avenue were only half their present length and there was a field beyond which developed later and named North Avenue. Burton Latimer became an Urban District in 1923 and met over the Fire Station which was situated in Duke Street. Mention of the Fire Station reminds one of a spectacular fire which completely gutted Messrs. Eady’s Boot & Shoe Factory in Rosebery Street. Luckily, there was an area of waste ground next to the factory and there was no damage to the surrounding houses. The date was about 1928 and the cause of the fire was never established. There were so many dead ends in the town. The top of Finedon Street, both ends of Spencer Street., woodcock Street, Bird Street, Meeting Lane Croxens Yard (Later Latimer Close), Pigotts Lane all needed to be opened up but that was to come many years later. There was no Police Station and the town had one Sergeant who resided in a Police House at the top of Station Road and one Constable who resided at the top of Newman Street. In those days they were not allowed to mix too freely with the populace, they were not allowed to join any Club or drink in the town but it was a well known that the odd bottle was left out for the one on Night Duty. The Policemen were not permitted to have an allotment and the wives had a very restricted social life. This was considered to be a plum job and the early retirement with a pension was envied particularly as the Police retired at an early age and were in demand as Security Officers.


The Library was held once a week in the Council School which was also used as a Polling Station for national and local elections. There was one Doctor in the town and the Surgery was at the cross and the Doctor performed some minor operations which in later years meant a visit to the Hospital. The various children's ailments had to be endured as there were no serious inoculation programmes. Scarlet fever meant isolation at the Isolation Hospital at Kettering and any other children in the same house had to keep away from School for a period of three weeks. Two dentists used to visit the town and teeth were extracted in someone's front room or parlour. There were no dwelling houses down Finedon Road beyond Finedon Street apart from two villas where Messrs Whitney & Westley lived. The County Bus Services were carried out by the United Counties Bus Company but there were several local firms who operated between Burton Latimer and Kettering. The names of Timpson, Meadows (Later Meadows and Frost) and Whites, which must have had the effect of keeping prices stable, and the Summer Service to the Seaside were very reasonable. The first buses were open-topped double-deckers with wooden seats up and downstairs, and Barton Hill was a slow deliberate climb. The speed limit was a mere 20 miles per hour and that was just about within their capabilities.

Looking back from the early eighties, these years seem to be primitive but they did demonstrate a period of social change. The wider world was opening up and people were able to move travel more and the Continent was beginning to no longer be confined to people with means. There was a levelling-up of the classes and no longer did the Squire and his Lady expect a touch of the cap or a curtsey. The birth pangs of Social Security were beginning to be felt with the Poor House no longer a threat to the destitute. Multi-national Firms were opening up and manufacturing geared itself to producing for the mass market. Woolworths gave access to cheap articles for the masses and led the way for others to follow.

The real tragedy of the times was the high mortality from consumption (or medically known as tuberculosis) as the names of whole families give witness in the Cemetery. "Whole families" is a bit misleading, as often the mother and father would survive. At the time it was thought that malnutrition was a cause but well-fed families were just as vulnerable. No doubt the attention to health of the dairy herds was a big factor in reducing the disease. There were no vaccines available for children's ailments and in the end the ailments were accepted as the norm. There did not seem to be many cases of nervous diseases, probably due to the more leisurely life style despite the fact that the working day was longer and the holidays were shorter.

Were people any happier? Looking back, one remembers the good times and forgets the bad, and the only answer is ‘don’t know’. The milk of human kindness flows in all ages, with daily opportunity to do good and to try to leave things better than they were.

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