Henry William Earnest 'Harry' Berks
Born: 23rd August 1909 in Whittington
These notes were made in June 1977 and they were titled “Whittington Village – 50 years ago”
The mail was brought by Mr Gee from Lichfield Heath. The Post Office was in Bird Street, Lichfield. The mail was delivered at 7am in the morning and collected at 12 noon; this was in a horse-drawn box van, all red with gold lettering “Royal Mail” over a crown. Mr Gee was a very dignified gentleman in a peaked cap, blue uniform with red stripes and puttees.
The Freeford to Lichfield Road
At this time this was a very rough stone surfaced road bordered by a lot of old trees. It was partially widened and straightened in 1922 and most of the trees cut down. Further work was carried out in 1926 when ditches were dug and pipes laid. At this time a start was made on footpaths along Mr Baxter’s orchard.
There was a bus service from Tamworth to Lichfield - open-top double decker buses with solid tyres - but you had to walk to Freeford Lodge off Botany Bay to catch them. Mr Jones of Lichfield ran a Friday bus service from about 1919 for Market Day.
Whittington was classed as a Military Village, being home of the North and South Staffs Regiment and everyone was very pleased about it. The old police station was always at “The Dog” corner at the house now called “Tops”. The sergeant in charge and single man lived there and a second police constable had a house in Church Street. Sergeant Haines, PC Shaw and PC Fletcher. I remember the sergeant coming out and saying “Put your blackouts up, as the Zeppelins are over Burton-on-Trent”.
The Blacksmith’s Shop
The blacksmith’s shop was for years in Church Street, where two new houses have now been built. It was a combined workshop, as the village builder, Mr R Moody, lived there with his two sisters. The blacksmith, Mr Windridge, later moved to the premises of Mr Herbert Langton – that’s how “Langton Crescent” came about. Herbert Langton was a wheelwright and village undertaker. At the rear of this property were the old allotments which the Parish Council sold for housing development. The Blacksmith’s business then moved to Chapel Lane, where it came to a peaceful close.
The Old Hall
Whittington Old Hall Estate was a very large estate and covered many hundreds of acres, with its great farms from Whittington to Fisherwick and Whittington Hurst. We as children would go to the Hall on high days such as Empire Day and Royal Birthdays, singing patriotic songs and would receive a glass of lemonade and a bun. The estate employed many workmen for the farms, also gardeners. In those days work started at 6am by the Bell being tolled. Also it would go at 10 am for the head gardener and housekeeper to meet the head of the house.
The Smith family were at Whittington House at the time electric light cam to Whittington; the Hall had it own electricity generated by a small engine.
The Green at this time housed half the Hall staff. Mrs Evans – laundry, Mr Hesketh – groom, Mrs Bridgen – sewing maid, Mr T Bridgen – bricklayer, Mr G Chapman – estate carpenter and Mr T Linney, chauffeur.
This great estate started at the old Police Station and carried right along Church Street to Freeford, all Darnford, a part of Cappers Hill to Trent Valley station. Here again it employed a lot of village people and still does today. The Pass family and the Beckett families have a great record at Freeford.
Sewerage at Whittington
This did not come into Whittington till the 1920’s and only the middle of the village then. The outer areas are still on septic tanks. People used to have ash pits and lavatories combined. Some used a bucket. Baths as such were never heard of. For a good wash you had to light the copper, then shut the wash house door and use an ordinary washing day bath. It is all down hill to the centre of the village; cause of flooding.
Water in Whittington
Most areas had well water, but some were lucky where four or five houses would have a stand pipe. Here again, it was the 1920s before a good water service and a few hydrants were put in. But now we have a good service and it can be stepped up from valves at Freeford Lodge.
There were only four or five cars in Whittington up to 1926. Colonel Seckham had a large Wolseley Saloon with beautiful brass headlamps and a large bulb horn. The Miss Moodys had a tourer and the Reverend Cohu a little two-seater – when it went.
Electricity came to the village in 1929-30., Mr W Russell being the engineer. Whittington should be grateful to him for such a grand job. The poles in most parts of the village are the same. Up till then Whittington had only paraffin or candle light. The street corners had paraffin lamps on iron brackets. Mr J Pass was the village lamplighter.
The Church of St Giles – 13th century
During my years I have seen 7 vicars at Whittington – Rev Cohu, Rev Fleming, Rev Outram, Rev Peck, Rev Meakin, Rev Davis, Rev Brothwell. Of course, I should have done for I was a choir boy from the age of 9 years, a member of the Church Council from 1930-1974, serving 44 years and 20 of these as People’s Warden. What a great change in all these years. People came to church in horse and dog cart. Col Seckham and family usually walked with son and daughter. Mr and Mrs Inge of Broom Leasoe would come by horse and carriage. What a lovely sight! Major and Mrs Dyott, along with Miss May and Miss Eleanor, would come by horse and carriage also. They lived at “Cross Road” then.
My first vicar, Mr Cohu, was a dapper little man and had three dogs, German sausage dogs, called Faith, Hope and Charity – and charity started at Whittington Vicarage.
The oak panelling around the church was put in by Colonel Seckham and the work was done by Mr F Foster, a village craftsman, and what a wonderful job he made. The work was done in 1912. Many people gave gifts that year. The Dyott family gave the jewelled cross on the altar. The church clock was put in also that year by Messrs Gettles of Lichfield and has since been restored by Mr and Mrs Harry Inge. How grateful we all are for such kindness. The Seckham family put a reredos to Colonel Seckham. The Smith family put in the altar rail, also the choir boys’ front stall and left enough money invested for the new church organ. Mr and Mrs Corn gave generously. Mr Corn had the church aisle laid down and tiled – also the central heating was his scheme.
The Chapel goes back to 1837 and it is known that many members of the old families have been christened there. Talking of these families, it would be very interesting to know who is. Both the Bridgen and Pass family have a long record. Mrs [Sarah] Carter and Mr [Jack] Pass were brother and sister – also Mrs Emma Wincup is an older Bridgen daughter.
Mr Stevens – Peel Arms
Mr Stecens not only kept the “Peel Arms” but also kept the village coal depot. The boats used to bring coal to the wharf and we would go with barrows on Saturday morning to fetch one or two hundredweights, as required. The public weighbridge was there too, so you can see how busy he would be kept.
Mr Frank Foster succeeded Mr Frank Sturgess as the landlord of “The Dog” and was always very smartly turned out to greet the Hunt when the hounds met at “The Dog” corner.
The Post Office in early days was part of two old cottages. Further down in the main street where Mr Blewitt’s residence is now. Also Mr Windridge, the Blacksmith lived there. Mr. G. (editor: I believe he meant George Elson) was postmaster and village tailor. He gave up and Mr …. (editor: I believe he meant George Blewitt) Then took over and the Post Office moved to where Mrs … (editor: I believe he meant Mrs Cutler) now lives.
There were two village cobblers, but the one I remember most was Mr Whelan who lived on the Rock. What a character he was, especially on pension day.
The School (and Thomas Levett of 1381)
There were first church schools, but if parents could afford a penny or two, the church people were grateful. The education authority took over in 1912. When a much larger school was built, the Church could no longer afford the expense. Mr E Bramley (editor: Walter Bramley was headmaster 1904-1925) was headmaster in my day and lived in the School House. Miss M Lindorf (editor: I believe he meant Miss Maud Lindop) was his helper, who later married Mr E Aston (editor: I believe he meant Mr Frederick Aston), the village baker. The Junior School had Miss Martin in charge and Mrs Harrison was her helper.
Mr Bramley organised concert parties with all us children and from monies received he was able to purchase the War Memorial. This was dedicated in 1924 by Rev Cohu.
© 2016 Whittington History Society