Life in Long Marston – Early 1920’s

As remembered by Mary Ridpath- nee Gregory

During the early 1920’s all the occupiers of the larger houses in the village and surrounding areas employed maids, with some living in. The day started early, the range needing to be lit and heated before the early morning tea could be made. Wash days were hard work, a large faggot had to be put under the copper to heat the water. Everything was, of course, washed by hand and, with no electricity, irons needed to be heated on the range.

The farm worker also made an early start, with the cows having to be milked by hand before loading the churns on to a pony and trap and racing to Marston Gate Station to catch the milk train before 7 a.m.

For those children who did not live on a direct route to the school, it was a run across the fields to make a short-cut as the bell rang, and with no school dinners, the children had to make four trips to and from home and school each day.

In a time of limited travel, the village had more shops than today. There was, of course, Gregory the Butcher in Cheddington Lane and across the yard, a Baker who lived-in at the bakery. A flour store was sited above and bags of flour would be hoisted up through the loft door. At Christmas, the village turkeys were cooked in his bakery oven as the domestic cooker was usually too small. The shop also sold sweets.

Around the comer in Tring Road, as now, The Queen’s Head, then run by the friendly but business-like persons of Mrs. Smith and Miss Jordon – both ladies were very refined and preferred to Keep to the older style of dress: a floor length skirt, buttoned boots and small head-cover. Next door, seemingly doing equal trade, was The White Heart. Further along at No.1 was the Post Office run by Mrs. Bates and down the yard (now TW Generators) was another Bakery run by her husband, Mr Bates. Opposite was Bethel the Blacksmith, who also offered a taxi service.

The village store was always there, as it is today, and the Village Hall was situated in the house now called ‘Harting’. The Hall boasted a Reading Room, and Mothers Meetings and Mothers Union would meet there.

To supplement the household income, many of the village ladies would do straw plaiting. This was then be collected at regular intervals and taken to Luton to be made into hats.

Work was hard, but there were lighter moments to look forward to during the year: Whit Thursday saw the village children marching behind a band on its way to Church. During the afternoon there would be a cricket match between the Gregory and Chapman families.

Then came late October and the Marston ‘Sattie’, or fair. A village feast would be arranged between The Queen’s Head and The White Heart, with a fairground set up in the recreation ground, complete with round-abouts, swing-boats, coconut shys, etc.

Of course, on a Sunday, the whole village went to Church – the Baptist and Wesleyan Chapels and All Saints Church were all well attended.

Christine Rutter

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