A chat with Daniel -
The Good Old Days?
We tend to think of interest in local history as a fairly recent innovation, but this is not necessarily the case.
More than a century ago, Eastington villagers were already taking note of what had gone before, particularly when it was within living memory or within a generation or so. As part of this, the Eastington Parish Magazine’s anonymous ‘roving reporter’ of the time recorded interviews with older members of the parish, and ‘Chats with old inhabitants’ was a regular feature. Reading these is like opening a door to the past and it’s almost possible to hear the broad Gloucestershire dialect spoken by our forefathers, but now disappearing fast. The following comes from the July 1893 edition of the magazine:
Eastington Parish Magazine July 1893
CHATS WITH OLD INHABITANTS
“Well, Daniel, I’m glad to see you still get about as usual. See, what was the last milestone – birthday, I mean, you know?”
“Ah Sir, this is my eighty-
“And were you born in the parish, Daniel?”
“Yes Sir, in one of the cottages that is pulled down long ago and rebuilt”.
“What do you say about the old times: were they better than now?”
“No, I don’t – they were harder times a deal for poor folks, scores of them going without shoes or stockings, and things very dear”.
“Well, what did bread cost in those days?”
“Why, it was fourpence for a very small loaf -
“How about learning. Did you ever go to school?”
“Oh no; there weren’t no schools like ‘tis now – least only small schools in the cottages. I went to a man named William Hurd for a while; he had just a few of us. He was a weaver and had two looms in his house. A man we called ‘Cherries’ worked one of them. He had been in the service. We had to learn while the looms were hammering away. “
“And what lesson books had you?”
“Oh, only the Bible or Testament – perhaps a small book to learn out letters from. We never did no writing. I never learnt it. The first I remember as set that going was they at the Wesleyan Chapel. When I first remember there was only one gig in the parish; that was the one old Mrs Hicks used to drive in, that lived in the Leaze [Eastington Park]. William Fletcher was her coachman. She was the widow of Mr Henry Hicks. He used always to go about on a little horse he had”.
“Do you remember The Leaze being built?” [about 1815].
“No, I can’t say that I do; but I recollect Churchend Mill [it stood immediately behind the school] being enlarged and the steam engine being put in”
[this was a beam engine supplied in 1822 by the famous company of Boulton & Watt].
“How about the roads. Wasn’t Spring-
“Oh yes, I can well mind that; I’ve taken coal up when it was a hard pull.”
“How long was that ago – sixty or seventy years?”
“Yes, all that. It was done at the cost of Mr Hatherall the Rector, by some men from Worcester. They did the road to Claypits about the same time. That was a pretty stiff pull for coaches before. And they made the roads straight and put them into better form. Ah, there’s been many turns for the better here since them days!”
formerly The Leaze,
by wealthy land and mill-
Note the donkey powered lawn mower!
Part of the Henry Hicks’ huge Churchend Mill that stood behind the present school
Published in ECN 135 Oct/Nov 2012
Eastington Parish Magazine in the 1880s