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Brian Freestone 2015
Brian Freestone - A Long Association

James Dicks with Wallis's Mill workers James Dicks Sunday School outing with Wallis's wagon
Workers at T & J Wallis's Mill, probably early 1900s
James Dicks is standing extreme left
James Dicks 1857 - 1927
My great-grandfather
A Baptist Sunday School outing in a wagon lent by T & J
Wallis, millers, for whom James Dicks worked and who is
thought to be holding the horse's head

My association with Burton Latimer goes back two hundred years or more through the families of the Downings and Dicks. My 'Freestone’ line did not begin in the town until 1902 when my paternal grandfather Walter James married Emily Dicks of Alexandra Street. They were married by Rev Letheren at the Baptist Chapel in Meeting Lane. Emily‘s father was James Dicks, a milIer's waggoner. He would collect sacks of flour in his wagon from Wallis's Mill, now the site of Weetabix and take them to surrounding villages, an idyllic journey in summer but one of some hardship in winter. He was reputed to rub turpentine on his legs to protect himself from the cold. It was said that he may even have taken a sip of it to keep himself warm! And who could blame him?

The Dicks family featured in the 1841 census of Burton Latimer by which time they were an already established family in the town. Great great grandfather John Dicks was born there c 1815. My paternal grandmother Emily Dicks was a clothes machinist and had a reputation for being an excellent cook. F W Dicks, mentioned in Number 57 of the Newsletter may well have been a relative. The mother of Emily Dicks was seamstress Emma Downing of Alexandra Street. Her father was Henry Johnson Downing, born in Burton Latimer c 1813 in what was variously described as Haddon's Lodge or Cranford Lodge, a residence I have yet to pinpoint. He seemed to have been fairly well educated owning a large Bible with his name inscribed on the flyleaf with ‘Burton Lattimer‘(sic) 1834 also written there. Also in the flyleaf is a list of his eleven children and their dates. Four of them died in infancy and they were replaced by children bearing the same Christian name, a practice which we would find abhorrent today. My paternal grandfather, Walter was from Finedon, a member of the church and a member of a choir. One guesses that he met my grandmother when his choir came to Burton to perform in a concert and the rest, as they say, is history. They had a house built, 83, Station Road, then Ball's Lane, and the Freestones lived there for nearly one hundred years. Walter worked at one of the shoe factories in the town (He is shown at work in a photograph in the museum) and was variously described as a `shoe pressman' or a ‘rough stuff man.' This did not mean that he was a ‘Steptoe‘ but that he cut up the rough leather for shoes!

Arthur Freestone with his parents My father, George Arthur, always known as Arthur, born at number 83, went to Wellingborough School, tried various jobs until he qualified to become a bricklayer, a job he did for the rest of his life. The other jobs varying from working at a baker’s to becoming a policeman, were not for him since they meant he couldn't play football on a Saturday afternoon. This was his passion and he played for several local football teams in the 1920s and 1930s. He was renowned for his ability although he often talked about the day he missed a penalty in a local cup final! Little of his ability in soccer reached mel I found my forte in cricket, hockey and badminton instead. Apart from three years in the R.E.M.E at Donnington, Shropshire, and six months in India Arthur spent most of his life in his beloved home town from which point he viewed the world. On his way out to India on the liner ‘Georgic,' converted to a troop carrier, he received a tap on the shoulder only to meet up with Walt Tailby, also from Station Road, on the same vessel. Arthur & Edna on their wedding day in 1936
Arthur with his parents Walter and Emily
Arthur and Edna on their
wedding day in 1936

As a child I explored the countryside around the town probably in much the same way as my father had done some thirty years earlier. He married my mother, Edna (from Kettering.) She was in the Carey Baptist Church Choir and I suspect they met perhaps when the choir visited the town, almost a repeat scenario of the meeting of my grandparents.

In 1936 Arthur built the house at the top of Pioneer Avenue where I was born. Its garden backed onto 83, Station Road. When Walter died suddenly in 1942, having just come in from the ‘shop' at the back of the house, my parents moved back into Number 83 where Arthur lived for the rest of his life. Unfortunately he suffered badly from asthma which he contracted when he took off a thatched roof. (No masks in those days!) The dust invaded his lungs causing the asthma. He died in 1968 at the age of 59. Even three hundred years ago most of my ancestors were born within ten miles of Burton Latimer so that I can describe myself as a real 'Burton and Northants Boy'.

Young Brian Freestone Brian Freestone
A young Brian
Brian today

Although I have lived away from Burton Latimer for nearly sixty years I still have an affection for the place and for memories of town, its surroundings and the children I grew up with. Even now I consider it as ’home.' Favourite places to play were Dunmore's Field, Holland's Brook, the Hurdy Gurdy and the Spinney in 'Jungle Town'. As a mark of my affection, I have, over the years, collected and displayed at least thirty models of Weetabix lorries, vans and buses which have pride of place on my bookshelves. I used to have a childlike habit of spotting these yellow vehicles whilst on my travels, but alas, they are no more. Some might say in modern parlance that I need to ‘get a life'.

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