During the Second World War a
dance was held weekly in the Assembly Rooms located behind Mr. &
Mrs. Binner’s shop. (The Middle Shop) This attracted
soldiers from a nearby camp - admission charge three shillings civilians,
one and sixpence soldiers. Some soldiers were already drunk
when they arrived and after getting into the Dance soon went out
again where they passed their tickets to friends who then tried
to get in with the used ticket. We soon became aware of what
was going on and our efforts to prevent this fraud usually led to
an almighty row which the Army authorities had to sort out. Proceeds
from the dances accumulated in a Welcome Home Fund for use at the
end of the war. Prior to the war a dance was a special occasion
event only. There were occasional Whist Drives; concerts at
the Assembly Rooms - a Concert Party came from Whitchurch. Chapel
Anniversaries were marked each year with a Children’s Singing
Festival when girls and boys were dressed in their Sunday best.
At that time the Churches were well supported and social activity
centred around the Churches. There were annual fetes at the
Rectory. The Rector attended day school once a week to take
scripture lessons. For many years there was an annual Carnival
with the election and crowning of the May Queen.
On Whitchurch road where Mrs. Davies lives now, lived Fred and
Tom Bostock, Fred had charge of the Racecourse and was also an
Undertaker. The brothers were country people who had rarely
been outside the village - they never did see the sea in their
lifetime. One evening a coach went by with its radio playing
loudly and this became the talk of the village (I'd be about 10
years old). The next day, as a friend and I were going home
from school, Tom asked “Do they have to call at the Post
Office to pick up the message Bill? We laughed which caused
Tom to say, “What the hell is there to laugh about? Apart
from being amused we thought little about the incident but it
probably indicated that there were few radios in Bangor at that
The last house before the corner of Worthenbury Road, where George
Hurnphreys lives, originally had a workshop and was also a Smithy.
Where Mr. & Mrs. Gerry Roberts now live in Whitchurch
Road, was previously occupied by Tom Pritchard, Saddler, who made
and repaired harness. Next door was Lizzie Clay, Postwoman.
She delivered letters by cycle for a considerable distance
around the village e.g. Halghton Hall 4 miles away. In her
later years as she became incapable of riding her cycle she would
walk pushing the cycle. Miss. Pritchard gave her help by delivering
on foot any telegrams received in Miss. Clay’s absence.
The first Sunday School Outing I can remember was from Tallarn
Green to Llangollen - by horse and trap to Ruabon and then by
train. On another occasion, during the First World War,
we traveled by horse and trap to Eccleston Ferry near Chester.
I have recollection of ladies in a boat with some officers
(there was a camp at Eaton Hall). The boat arrived at the
landing stage, the officers got out and offered their hand to
the ladies, one refused and she was at the opposite end of the
boat to the landing. As she attempted to step ashore the
boat went away and over she went into the water; she was fished
out in a very wet and bedraggled condition.
Before there was either a sewage scheme or water laid on in the
village, the old stone tank by the bridge (opposite the Royal
Oak) which had a rotary pump was used by the Roadman (Herbert
Hughes or Mr. Evison) on a Saturday morning to flush out the drains.
In my early days the roads in the village were track-ways made
with gravel. In dry weather vehicles passing through would
create a cloud of dust very much like what we now see of towns
in the Wild West films on television.
So far as the Bridge was concerned the rule of the road before
traffic lights came along was that whoever was first on the Bridge
had right of way and anyone coming from the opposite direction
had to back off - a difficult operation with a horse and cart
without brakes. After Traffic Lights were in operation a
lorry from Wrexham with a load of canned beer misjudged the Bridge
roadway, a wheel went over the parapet and a lot of beer when
into the river - the Bridge was blocked for a day.
Orchard Farm where we lived and worked was on the opposite side
of Whitchurch Road to the fields we worked. We had no piped water
and in the winter cattle had to be loosed out twice a day to drink
from a pond, the ice having been broken when necessary. At
that time we had about 14 animals and as time went on we increased
the herd and were able to buy additional land. When the
weather was cold the cows would drink very little and then when
watered later would over-drink causing scour and other trouble.
Hay was stored loose in a shed and had to be cut as required
by Hay Knife, thrown down and then carried to the Shippon.
On windy days this was very difficult so we always endeavoured
to keep a good supply available.
Drinking water for the house was carried by bucket from the bottom
of Rags Hill - three to four hundred yards. At harvest time we
drank a lot which necessitated many more journeys to the well.
When I was 10 years of age we had to walk cattle to auction either
at Ellesmere or Wrexham and of course on other occasions we had
to walk cattle back. If they were destined for Oswestry
then they were loaded at Bangor Station. We had cattle,
pigs and poultry. Most people kept poultry - free range.
We had a lot of trouble with foxes. When they had
pups in the springtime they frequently raided and ran off with
our stock which invariably seemed to be when we were milking.
The Wynstay Hunt used to pay so much a bird lost to the
fox - just a few shillings as compensation for the Hunt being
allowed to chase over our land.
Cheshire Cheese and butter were made on the farm, butter more
so in the winter when the herd was not producing enough milk.
Our procedure for making cheese had remained unchanged for
The milk went into the Vat (which had an outer chamber for hot
water). To this was added Rennet and Starter and the whole
was mixed thoroughly by hand. Whey was run off, salt and
colour added to the Curd. Cheese chessbits were lined with
cheese cloth; metal hoops put in place, and then packed tightly
with curd, (there were holes in the chessbits to allow the whey
to escape). Twenty four hours later the chessbits were put
under pressure. Eventually the cheese was taken out of the
chessbit in its wrapping of cheese cloth and painted with a flour
mixture, the cloth cut to size, and wrapped round the cheese,
the ends being capped first. Approximately 21 cheeses were
taken at three week intervals to Whitchurch Market Hall for sale
at two pence a pound. The cheeses stood on straw and after
they had been sold the straw was placed on top of the cheese.
Our cheese would be either red or white Cheshire. Hygiene
control and inspection was non existent and did not make appearance
until after the Second World War. There were times when
demand was very poor unless you were producing a first class cheese
and it was not every farmer who produced such a cheese. When
we first started selling milk it went to a Mr. Riley at Bronington
who had a connection with the Co-operative Wholesale Society,
probably not long before the Milk Marketing Board came into existence.
Farmers had no idea what they would get for their milk until
they went to collect their money. In 1935/36 we received
5 old pence per gallon.
Hay was cut by mowing machine pulled by horses. If the weather
had been bad and the grass knocked down then one of us had to
walk at a fair pace behind the machine with a hand rake, raking
grass off the knife bar and fingers, as we called them. Sometimes
there would be a mouse’s nest in the grass which would get
on to the point of the fingers and prevent grass being cut in
that section, causing the horses to pull up and the raker following
behind to be liable to pitch over the mower. One year we
had a very wet hay harvest and after a field next to the Green
Lane at Hollybush had been cut, three weeks went by during which
we were unable to touch it on account of rain, rain and more rain.
Eventually we tried to use the Swathe Turner pulled by horses
which would normally turn two swathes at a time but the machinery
refused to touch it, so the job had to be done by pikel which
took three of us an hour and a quarter to turn a swathe each i.e.
three rounds of the field whereas the machine would normally have
turned the whole field in the same time. In these conditions
the hay would not be dry enough causing it to heat up. To
counteract this every layer of the stack was given a sprinkling
of agricultural salt to sweeten it. We also used a hessian
bag full of hay tied to a rope. As the stack increased in
height the bag would be held in the middle and pulled up from
layer to layer leaving a chimney in the stack to enable excess
heat to get away and prevent fire.
Before the Combine Harvester came on the scene we used a self
binder which cut the grain and bound it into sheaves. However,
before the binder could operate it was necessary to cut a round
by scythe and bind by hand to give the machine room to operate.
Hedge-cutting was done by hand. As the road went through
our farm we were responsible for the hedges on both sides of the
road. Every year it took me a month to cut the hedges and
clear the bank, often working at night. I would in effect
have to cut half to three-quarter’s of a mile of hedgerow;
thorns and branches would be put in the ditch until November 5th
when they would be retrieved for a giant bonfire.
Charles Jones from Threapwood worked on farms in the area during
my younger days. He sowed basic slag (from the steelworks)
in bags of a hundredweight and a quarter and performed this service
for all the farms in the district. What he was paid I cannot
remember but it was not much. He was often too tired to
go home and would sleep in the Bing in front of the cattle. His
face, hands and clothes were always black. When working
he carried a hopper containing the slag strapped around his body
and used a saucer to dip into the hopper and spread the slag as
he walked around the field. It was not unusual for as much
as 30 tons to be sown on one farm with anything up to half a ton
per acre on the grazing field, the slag having been previously
delivered by horse and cart.
After a field had been used for grain and we wished to return
it to pasture then it was necessary to first plough and then sow
the grass seed. To do this we used a barrow with a long
trough adapted to allow the seed to go down little apertures on
to the soil with an adjustment available to get the correct rate
of distribution. The barrow was pushed up and down the field,
starting at the straight edge, putting a peg on the opposite side
to push toward and on reaching the other side the peg would be
moved so many paces to the left (regard being as to the size of
the barrow) and the process repeated. In this way the field
would be covered without leaving gaps. I remember as a boy
going into the grain field to deal with a host of thistles using
a very narrow, two inch wide hoe - a very laborious task. In those
days we were plagued with rabbits making necessary regular sessions
each winter ferreting with nets over the exits. We always
had a plentiful supply of rabbit meat - I used to love Rabbit
On the farm we did not need to wear a watch in the fields as
we were able to tell the time by the passage of trains. The
first train went by at 8.0.a.m., the next 23 minutes past 8 to
Wrexham, another at 9.0.a.m. followed by 10.00.a.m. to Ellesmere,
Wrexham 10.45.a.m., Ellesmere 11.30.a.m., Wrexham 12.15.p.m.,
Ellesmere 1.40.p.m., Wrexham 3.0.p.m., Ellesmere 3.45.p.m., Wrexham
4.30.p.m., Ellesmere 5.20.p.m., Wrexham 6.0.p.m., Ellesmere 6.50.p.m.,
Wrexham 7.40.p.m., Ellesmere 9.15.p.m. Little did we realise
what a good service was being provided. There were also of course
in addition a number of freight trains. On one occasion
I went by train to Wrexham, I cannot remember the year - the fare
was nine old pence return. Returning by the train in the
winter we knew when it rattled over the Dee Bridge that it was
time to get ready to get off. After alighting we would make
our way along the track to Whitchurch Road and home - we were
of course supposed to use a footpath across fields to Whitchurch
Road but preferred to use the line. Gordon Mytton’s
grandfather as at one time Station Master; he was followed by
Billy Williams, now dead, and later Joe Evison whose widow still
lives in the village. If Billy Williams saw us walking the
line in daytime, and he was in good humour, he would change the
signal to give the impression that the train was coming and would
chuckle with laughter when we would as a result run to catch the
train. We traveled by train to the Butter Market at Wrexham
with our butter and eggs where there were stalls and shops with
slate benches in continuous line for which we paid a rent of nine
old pence per yard to display our wares for a day. The 1930s
were very difficult for father who after a years farming was often
as much as £100 worse off than in the previous year.
So far as the village is concerned where Peters’ Garage
now stands there were previously four cottages occupied by Daisy
Dodd’s grandfather and families of Jarvis, Matthews and
Roberts. Mrs. & Mrs. Roberts lived in the house nearest
to Mr. & Mrs. Peters’ present residence and Dr. Morton
had a surgery in their back kitchen. When Mr. & Mrs.
Roberts moved to a house opposite the Post Office the surgery
continued there for a period of time. Dr. Edwards of Wrexham
had a surgery where the present surgery now operates from (then
the home of Mrs. Harriet Johnson), and of course the nearest hospital
was in Wrexham. Opposite Peters’ Garage site was a
long wall with coping starting from the old brewery (now Gordon
Mytton’s office and town houses). There was a paved gutter
which continued until opposite the Lion Pub (until recently Mrs.
On the opposite side of the road was another open gutter running
from the Smithy to Harold Blakes. There were no houses beyond
the Brewery and Mr. Blakes. The road was a dirt tract i.e.
road stone rolled by steam roller on to which was laid soil from
the verges and again rolled. When cars began to increase
in number, in dry weather when a car approached it brought with
it a cloud of dust covering hedges, houses and any passers by.
After a period of heavy rain big ruts would form in the
road. In the field opposite Peters Garage site a small fair
was held on the nearest Saturday to the 20th July and on that
day members of the Oddfellows Club would parade to Church after
which they proceeded to Twiss’s Assembly Rooms - an old
1914/18 Army Hut at the rear of the Middle Shop, for a Dinner
and drinking session. Every Thursday Market Gardeners from
Whixall regularly passed our farm before six in the morning en
route for Wrexham returning later in the afternoon. I remember
on one occasion coming home from school and reaching Highgate
when I noticed a wagon moving along the road with the driver fast
asleep and the reins trailing in the road. I picked up the
reins tied them to the shaft without stopping the wagon and the
horse and wagon continued on its way with the driver still asleep.
The horse would find its own way home and as there was little
traffic there was no danger.
I can remember coracles on the river; fishing was good in those
days. Shops in the village included Grocery, Butchers (now
antique shop), Sadder, and Paper Shop; there was also a Smithy
and a Tailor. In the early days at the farm tithes had to
be paid- farmers were annoyed but paid up without protest. As
time went on vehicles got bigger, the village got a pounding as
a consequence and this led to the construction of the By Pass.
I had no wish to be a farmer having always hoped one day to be
a carpenter but my times and circumstances made it inevitable
that I would take over from father. In the early days times
were very hard, back breaking work, long hours, primitive conditions
and a poor return for so much endeavour. Gradually, however,
with the coming of electrification, a permanent piped water supply,
better machinery and the creation of the Milk Marketing Board
and a better deal for farmers generally things began to improve.
When I was Chairman of Flintshire National Farmers Union,
May and I had the privilege of attending a Garden Party at Buckingham
Palace, and it has given me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction
to have been able to serve our local community in so many ways.
A parish councilor for more than twenty years, Chairman on a number
of occasions; an Elder in our Presbyterian Church and constant
and continuous involvement in village activities. I thank
God for the blessing of reasonably good health and can honestly
say that despite times of adversity I have enjoyed my life on