MEMORIES OF DERRINGTON
Miss M. Ballance
I do not suppose that many people living in Derrington today know that Derrington is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It was then spelt Dearington. An old Bible that was thrown out of the Church has on the cover ‘St. Matthew’s Dearington’. At the end of Billington Lane joining the main road, there used to be a toll house which used to be occupied but I cannot remember a toll ever being taken.
As you can imagine there were no buses, electric or telephones in those days. You had to walk or if you were a farmer you had a horse and float or trap. We used to have some farmers in the village then, and you had to fetch your milk in a jug or can and you always got good measure. They also sold skimmed milk, cream, butter, eggs and cheese, which were always fresh. All the food you ate in those days was always fresh because all the cottages had a large garden and used to grow all their own vegetables. Another thing most cottages had was a pigsty and nearly all of them kept a pig, sometimes two, one for the house to kill and the other to sell. It was lovely to be able to cut a piece off a flitch of bacon or cut a slice of ham when you wanted, not to mention the port pies, brawn and home cured lard. We also had scratching cake and when the farmers had just had a cow calf they would give you some beastings to make beasting pie.
There used to be two public houses, one a beer house the other a fully licensed house. The “Three Horseshoes” used to be a beer house and my mother’s Aunt and my Grandfather used to keep that. All the seats were tall bench seats and spittoons were used. The tables were white wood and used to be scrubbed every day.
The “Red Lion” was kept by my Aunt and Uncle, Mr. And Mrs. R. Foden. I believe that my Uncle’s parents kept “The Red Lion” before him. This was a fully licensed house and all the drinks in both public houses had to be fetched up from the cellar. The beer used to be brought by horse-drawn drays and we children used to stand and watch the men as they unloaded the barrels and let them down into the cellar by chains. Anyone could buy a chunk of bread and cheese then to have with their drink and often there would be red pickle cabbage on the table for them to have if they wanted. Both Public Houses used to keep a cow or two and make butter and my Aunt, Mrs. Foden used to make cheese as well.
Weekends in the summer used to be the busiest time, the people used to walk cross the fields from Stafford, Doxey and Seighford for a drink. At one time there was not a public house at Doxey and the Holley Bush at Seighford was a six day. All the lighting in those days was lamps and candles. I often wonder how we managed to see to read and sew at night, but we did. No torches then to go out at night with, if you wanted a light you had a hurricane lamp or a candle in a glass, should you need a doctor at any time you had to go to Stafford and tell him or send a letter, and in those days you had to pay yourself for his services and the medicine, no wonder people used to try all kinds of remedies they could hear of.
All the people that worked in Stafford had to walk across the fields morning and night. The same thing if you wanted any kind of entertainment very few people then had bicycles. I can well remember my brother walking home from work at night, have his dinner and change and we would walk back to Stafford to go to the Picture House and then walk back home afterwards. The same thing happened if you wanted to go to a dance you had to walk there and walk back when it was over.
Haughton was one of the places we often went to. At one time we had a Church room which used to stand in the corner of the field facing Ruskin Cottage. The people from Haughton and around used to come to the dances and whilst drive we held there, and the music was a concertina played by Mr. Booth who cycled from Stafford and was paid ten shillings. In the bad weather planks of wood and corrugated sheets had to be put down to walk on to get there.
We had a Sunday school in that room, Miss Anslow used to walk down the fields from Aston by Doxey to reach us. The Sunday school parties were held there too. All the money raised from the functions held in the Church room was the start of the present Village Hall now being used and it is due to the hard work and giving of those people living in those days that we have a Village Hall.
One of the things we found interesting was watching the steam roller working when they were mending the roads going backwards and forwards crushing the stones flat. At that time we had a road man who used to keep the hedge banks cut and the ditches cleaned out to allow the water from the roads to seep away.
When anyone died they would have either relatives of friends as bearers, and they used to have forms put at intervals on the way to the Church so that the bearers could have a rest. At that time there were two bells which were rung for the services and at a funeral one was tolled.
From the Church gate to the porch on each side of the path there used to be trees but these were cut down some years ago. Not many people know that the pulpit in the Church was turned round – the work was done by Mr. John Foden and helpers, he was a bricklayer.
The Church was heated by a coal fire underground with the grids on top, the grids are still in the aisle today. The fire used to be lit on a Saturday and stoked up at night to keep it in for the Sunday. Some of the original windows used to open, and the East window had more coloured glass in it than it has now. The Church was lit with laps and candles and the pews were flush to the walls with more pews than there are today.
As the years went by things started to change – we had a man who came to take grocer orders from Bebbingtons and other grocery shops sent men too to take orders. You gave your order in the week and they would be delivered at the weekend – also there came a butcher round. At this time cars began to be seen around and also a bus service started, Proudlocks and Austens – two different services, one of the buses was like a Black Maria. The return fare was 7 ½d (approx 3p).
Those days gone by were hard days in many ways but they were much happier; you felt so free just to please yourself. Always a neighbour you could go to for help if needed and nothing was too much trouble for them.
At that time there were 25 houses, 6 farm houses, 2 Public Houses, one Church and one Church room. That was Derrington that was – happy days and happy memories.