Evacuues Memory of Clipston
I was born in June 1931 and was evacuated probably between late 1940 and early 1941 (no documentary evidence exists) so I would probably have been 9-10 years old, and stayed in Clipston for about two years.
The School at home
I had been a pupil at Brettenham Road Junior School in Edmonton, North London, and prior to that at the adjoining Infants School. The boundary wall of my garden also formed the wall of the Infants School playground, so I could look over it from the one to the other.
The Infants School was for both boys and girls, but the Junior School took boys only.
The school buildings were very old (for city schools) having been built probably around 1890-1900. The infants section was single storey, but the juniors part also had a first floor which could be reached from either within the building by a wooden staircase, or by an outside stone staircase which had steps worn into hollows by thr countless thousands of feet over the years.
The playground had the usual macadem surface, and there was a covered area on one side with a curved corrugated metal roof. The lavatories were at the far side of the playground and partly open to the sky, and there was no sports field. All the surrounding area was densely built up, although there was a park and a recreation ground within a few minutes walk.
Two or three bus-loads of children left the school one morning (for an unknown destination). We were taken to a London railway station and from there to Northampton station - the journey was held up several times because of air raids and other problems. More buses met the train at Northampton and took children off in various directions.
Arrival in Clipston
The school was the first building I saw upon reaching Clipston! It was dark by the time the bus pulled up outside the school and we were all very tired and hungry.
We were ushered through the main front-door into what seemed a spacious hall, with seats arranged either side of a centre gangway. Various people (mostly ladies, I think) handed out food and drink while the billeting arrangements were being made by, among others, Mr Bassett (the billeting officer) who had been asked to look out for a single quiet boy for placing with an elderly couple. I had no brothers or sisters and must have seemed suitable because other children gradually disappeared in ones and twos until eventually there remained only myself and a gentleman whom I found out later was Mr Halstrap, the Headmaster.
A new home
Mr Halstrap took me to a bungalow named "Ashbourne" in Harborough Road where I was welcomed by Tom and Betty Kemp, a very king couple with whom I spent about two very happy years.
The bungalow was much newer than my home in Edmonton, so it seemed all the more odd to have to go outside to a toilet behind a garage, after having been used to a toilet in the house.
There are three things which I particularly recall after nearly 60 years:
* When Mrs Kemp opened the curtains of my bedroom on the first morning, I said "Coo! Look at the fields!" The view was down the length of the garden and across the fields towards East Farndon, including a stretch of the Harborough road - it was possible to wait in the house until a bus from Harborough came into sight, and then nip outside to catch it opposite Mr Freestone's carpentary workshop. This was the first time I had seen such a rural outlook from indoors.
* Although the house had electric lighting, for some reason the kitchen was lit by an oil lamp which gave a distinct "comforting" warm smell when coming in from the cold and dark outside.
* There was a tap over the sink, but there was also a small hand-pump screwed to the draining board - this was the first time I had seen a working pump.
(There was also a large pump in a field by the bottom of the garden, quite close to the local Royal Observer Corps look-out post.)
Village school life
Strangely enough, I cannot recall much at all about school lessons apart from being asked about the stage reached in various subjects at Edmonton school. Presumably everything went well, otherwise bad events would have been remembered. The teachers at the Edmonton school were very free with the cane (up to 6 of the best if unlucky), whereas I don't recall having been caned at Clipston.
I don't remember any bullying and all the children seemed to get on well together - I formed friendships regardless of whether the children came from the village or were fellow evacuees.
One event that does stick in my mind was a trip by coach to a cinema in Harborough to see the film "Pinnochio". There are also vague memories of sports events in a field off Church Lane.
Obviously life outside school was far more important because many more things stick in the mind. Amongst them are:
* Watching the activities in Mr Freestone's workshop, including the building and repair of carts etc, and the making and rimming of wheels.
* Watching horses being shod at Mr Hensman's smithy in the High Street - the sounds and smells are never to be forgotten.
* Helping (or getting in the way!) at Mr Buswell's bakery in Chapel Lane, and going round the village in his pony and trap.
* Milk being delivered to the door in a pail and then being ladled into a jug.
* A demonstration by the fire brigade one evening in Pegs Lane using water-jets lit up by coloured lamps. The water was drawn from the pond behind Hornbeams Farm and we children thought we would find it empty next morning, but there was scarcely any difference in the water-level.
* Falling through the ice pond behind Mr Brown's house, near the village hall.
* Two bombs falling in 1941, one directly into the above-mentioned pond and the other along Church Lane.
* Building a snow-house outside Mr Fox's saddlery during a particularly cold winter
* Attending Chapel, where we children were allowed to leave before the sermon!
* A concert in the village hall, given by local residents - I vaguely remember a musical turn featuring a piano-accordion or a guitar (or perhaps both!).
* Walking miles to East Farndon, Kelmarsh, Naseby, and Oxendon - and various play activities around the village.
Going home to Edmonton
By 1942/3 the blitz on London was over and things had quietened down, and it was decided that I should return home to be with my widowed mother and the rest of the family. It was with very mixed emotions that my stay in Clipston came to an end, but like most children I soon got back into the former way of life.
Ironically, having been in London during the really heavy part of the Blitz in 1940, I was in Clipston during a quieter spell but had returned to Edmonton by the time the V1 (Doodle-bug) and V2 offensives began.
I have kept in touch with Clipston and its goings-on over the years and still return about once a year to see old friends, note the changes and catch up on events.
Les Shields December 1999