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A Kerridge Childhood (13)


Below is a further chapter from A Kerridge Childhood written by Enid Simpson. For a full introduction and index to all the stories please see the head page.


Kerridge and Bollington would seem, to the casual observer, to be one village, but this is not the case.

Kerridge is a hamlet and is built on the side of a hill. All the houses or cottages are built from the lovely Kerridge stone which is quarried in the nearby hillsides. This is a soft pinky-grey stone which mellows with time and hardens in the process.

As I have thought backwards over the years, I have realized how un-symmetrical the plan of the village was. probably there never was a plan and the ‘ Top Road’ which curved round a field, curved because the original cow or sheep track took that path to avoid a clump of trees or rocks. The cottages, for the most part, were built in rows (for economy) and ended abruptly out in a field, in some cases had to be walled in to prevent the tenants from falling off the edge. When I was a child and living there, no-one thought this was strange and so no-one questioned it.

From the unmarked boundary of neighbouring Bollington, Jackson Lane wound up a gentle rise and, like the Duke of York’s men, wandered down the other side. At the top of this wall was a pub, The Bull’s Head, and this seemed to mark the centre of the village. Everything started or finished there. When the bus company decided to run a bus to Kerridge, The Bull was the natural terminus.

The other road which ran off Jackson Lane was Redway Lane and we lived at number one. It was one of three cottages and had, at some time, been a small dairy farm. It must have been built before the road was cut through and the front door and garden, overlooked a meadow, whilst the back door faced the road. This made little difference to us, as, like most of the villagers, we used the back door most frequently.

‘Front’ rooms at that time, were simply a room of furniture or a ‘best’ room, no matter how crowded the family might be. Ours was only used at Christmas except for a time when it was my bedroom when I had a long illness.

There were two shops, both genera1 groceries, which sold countless other things too. Wm. Whitehurst was the local postmaster and he had a small, extra extension built on the front of his shop to house the intricacies of the Post Office. Pensions were paid there and this made him a man of some importance. He was a portly man of whom I was a little afraid. Like most tradesmen, he wore a large white apron, fringed at the bottom and this just cleared his boots, which were always well cleaned and shiny. He was a pillar of the Primitive Methodist Church and on Sundays, like everyone else, he would walk to chapel with his wife clinging to his arm. I cannot recall what she looked like, though William’s face is quite clear in my mind.

Somehow, I didn’t like to see him in a civilian role, he was a much more familiar man behind his counter. How can I describe his shop? It was quite small, with a flagged floor with no rug or carpet or even lino to soften the austerity. A counter divided it sharply across the width and a little way on the side. The inevitable sacks of potatoes, carrots and corn for the hens lay on the floor, with a huge scale nearby to weigh out these commodities.

Bacon hung from the ceiling with flies buzzing round it, butter and cheese lay on pottery slabs, sometimes covered with a muslin cloth, sometimes not. The back of the shop, behind the counter, was a mass of shelves and tea, sugar, dried fruit, with other dried commodities lying in random heaps. Hanging on to convenient nails were cards about 12″ x l8″ containing another selection of odd, but necessary items: Daisy headache powders, laxative tablets, kidney pills, safety pins, dummies (baby pacifiers) shoelaces, elastic and a thousand and one articles that kept a village farming community on its feet.

In those days, people only went to see the Doctor when all else failed. Coughs, colds, minor accidents and most childish ailments were treated by home remedies. Strangely enough, there was little mortality at the time of which I am writing.

William Whitehurst’s shop was lit, like all the other homes of that period, by gas. I remember a single burner, there may have been more than one, but extravagance was not noticeable in our village. At Christmastime, to mark. the occasion, two or three strands of tinsel were twisted across the shop. Now I think what a fire hazard it was, but to us, it was all we knew of Christmas decorations.

The other shop was on the other side of the hill and belonged to the Kirkham family. They had no post office to lure the customers but did have home-made bread. Some of their stock was in sweets but as Kerridge folk had little money to spare, I’m sure they didn’t make a fortune.

There were two places of worship on Kerridge, both offshoots of the regular churches in the nearby village of Bollington. There was the small ‘daughter’ church of St. Oswald, Church of England and then there was Kerridge Chapel. This belonged to the circuit of the Bollington Wesleyan Chapel and was a much prettier church than the C of E building.

Mostly agricultural, Kerridge folk had to attend to the farm chores seven days a week and no doubt the small churches had been erected to enable them to worship and to attend to their business on the same day.

A Christmas party was held for village children, though the adults must have arranged it. My recollection is being carried shoulder high by my Dad, through huge snow drifts. This, with the velvety black sky, pierced by a million glittering stars, was a wonderful adventure for a little girl.

Kerridge Chapel, was used during the week as a day school to accommodate the small children who could not walk to the ‘big school’ in Bollington. I became a pupil when I was three years old, and loved every minute of it. There were 4 classes – Babies, First class, Second class and Standard One. I’m told, that, on entering the school for the first day, Miss Rowlands, our teacher, allocated me, rightly, to the babies class, but standing firm and declaring that I was NOT a baby, I refused to go and I didn’t either – Miss Rowlands evidently thought discretion was the better part of valour, and put me into the 1st class. I don’t remember having difficulties with any of the lessons. Reading had always been available in our house and Dad, a great reader himself, saw to it that we all had opportunities to read.

He would read aloud to us, sitting round the fire during the Winter evenings whilst Mother clicked away on her steel knitting needles, or pegged at a new rug for the fire place. As we got older and reflect on the kind of person we are, the thoughts come into one’s head “Why am I this person?” Much depends on the genes we inherit and much depends on the people who have influenced us. My parents were hard working people of high principles and they taught us that life could be likened to a road with many offshoots and we could choose which way we would go.

I don’t mean to say that we were subject to homilies or lectures but by example and love we learnt many things.

Mother showed us at an early age that we must be ladylike – an out-of-date word now. Loud voices and slovenly eating habits were not allowed. We must be neatly, if not fashionably dressed, and our clothes taken care of. “Take it to its destination!.” How often do I hear those words in my ears now when I’m tempted to toss a coat or dress on a chair.

© 1985 Enid Simpson

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