Joe Wardle’s Memories of Whittington
18 Noddington Lane - 21st July 2003
Joe was one of 9 children, the eldest but one, born on 1st February 1918, in the cottage behind Moody’s Yard. His father told him that they had to put a wire cage over him as a baby to keep the rats off! His father, John Wardle, came from Polesworth (where he was a miner for a time). His mother, Carrie Wilkinson, was born in Whittington.
When Joe was a boy his father took a job as a shepherd at Tamhorn Park Farm, where he stayed until it was sold to Mr Riley. He then moved to work for Freddie Deakin at Sheepwash Farm.
Joe went to school in the village, when Mr Hughes was the headmaster and Miss Burgess a teacher. Joe used to clean her bike.
There were two taxi services in the village. One run by Miss Moody and the other by Mrs Sturgess. Mrs Sturgess charged 6d return to Lichfield. In the 1930s the bus to Lichfield ran every hour; fare was 2d .
Mrs Donnellan ran a sweetshop from the cottage in Church Street (no 10). So did Shady Britt from No 8. There was another Britt on the other side of the road.
As a young lad in 1920s Joe used to fetch beer for several ladies in the evening from The Bell. Mrs Flynn and Mrs Hull in Church Street, and Mrs Bridgen in Main Street. He also fetched snuff from the Swan when asked to.
He remembers Mrs Bridgen spent a lot of time in bed. George Burgess, the landlord of The Bell, asked that Joe tell her to wash the bottle out. The message went back to “mind his own bloody business!”
Gardener at the Old Hall
Joe started work at The Old Hall in 1933, aged 15, as a gardener. He said it was an honour to work there. His hours were 6.30am (in summer) 7.00am (in winter) until 5.00pm, with ½hr for breakfast and 1 hr for lunch. He went home to Arnolds Yard for his lunch. His starting wage was £24 per year.
On his first day, Jim Lockyer, the Head Gardner, walked him around the gardens showing him how he should walk. He was to wear a collar and tie (which he was allowed to take off when digging), wear a cap, be clean when he went to work and have his boots polished. He was shown the tool shed. No 3 barrow was to be his. His fork, spade, hose and line were shown to him and he was told that he was to look after them. If Mr or Mrs Corn sent for him he was to put on his collar and tie, comb his hair (there was a mirror in the shed) and clean his boots (there was polish and brushes for this). Then he was to go to the butler, Mr Godson, who would take him to Mrs Corn in the morning room or Mr Corn in his office.
Joe’s jobs were digging, potting, sewing seeds, laying ashes and rolling the paths (once a week), rolling the tennis court (every day). It was the chauffeurs’ job to mow the lawns with a Dennis motor mower. Joe also took vegetables to the cook (Edith) which he had to clean. Nance Kerr (nee Carter) was kitchen maid. Joe also cleaned the shoes for the house, sharpened the knives, filled the coal buckets and log baskets in the house.
The Old Hall was totally self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit. The cook went to Lichfield to buy the meat in the Rolls.
Apart from Joe, the following people worked as gardeners at the Old Hall in the 1930s:
George Snape was Chauffeur when he arrived in 1933, he died about 1936. Tony Powell was the Chauffer in 1945. He drove a Humber and he only used to clean one side, the side Mrs Corn got in!
Old Hall House
Maids were changed by 2.00pm into burgundy dresses.
Staff had half a day off each week. At Christmas they were given a £1 note each.
The Corns usually went on a cruise for six weeks from February to the end of March. While they were away Joe and Jack Hull had to take up every carpet and carry them down to the drying green. There they were beaten and then they had to be re-laid. The job took the whole holiday.
Joe stayed in gardening until 1950. He returned to Whittington in 1956 and got a job with the railways. He became Track chargeman after Jack Russell retired.
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