Whittington History Society

Old Whittonians

Abraham Arnold

Village Baker c.1890 - 1912

The area now occupied by the Co-op and No 17 Main Street was the site of Abraham Arnold's Central Bakery. He was village baker for twenty years from the 1890s.

Frederick Aston

Village Baker 1912 - 1952

By 1912 Frederick Aston had taken over Abraham Arnold's bakery business and continued to bake Whittington's bread into the 1950s. One of Whittington’s long term residents remembers Astons Bakery: “One would wake in the mornings to the wholesome scent of baking bread and the still-warm loaves would be brought to one’s door in a large willow basket covered with a red check cloth. Brown and crusty topped with a taste and texture unknown today, simple luxury.

Sydney Baxter

Farmer at Church Farm from 1919 - 1955

Originally from Cheshire, he followed his elder brother Thomas to Lichfield and brought Church Farm, Whittington from the Freeford Estate in 1919. Church Farm was then 160 acres for which he paid £16,000. He moved in as bachelor in 1920. He milked cows, grew potatoes, kept sheep, hens, pigs, with the work being done with horses. He was chairman of Lichfield branch of N.F.U. and the local agricultural society that ran local show and Ploughing matches. He had a keen interest in sport playing cricket for Whittington and allowing the local village football team to play in one his fields. Sydney Baxter died after being charged by a bull on his farm aged 69.

Jack and Bill Berks

Verger & Sexton at St Giles Church 1966 - 2010

Jack and Bill's father George Berks first took on the role of Verger and Sexton at the church in 1903. When George died in 1954 their mother Flo took over the mantle until her death in 1966 at which time Bill and Jack took it on jointly with the help of Jack's wife Dot.

 

Many villagers will remember seeing the brothers digging graves together by lamplight well into the night, cutting the grass or clipping the ivy together as a family. Bill and Jack would also chime the bells for weddings. You may also remember the quiet banter they shared with each other or those who were passing – like telling people that the bench in the churchyard was “for residents only” – or “I bet they wont do that again” if someone died. When Jack died in 1990 Bill carried on on his own for the next 20 years.

 

Bill, who lived on Church Street all his life, died in February 2010.

 

Wilf & Charlie Boston

Market Gardeners at Boot Farm from c.1955 - 1991

WIlf and Charlie Boston inherited Boot Farm from their father, Charles Snr who bought it in 1932. They ran a successful market gardening business. They grew corn, hay, potatoes, cauliflowers, cabbage, sprouts, carrots, swedes, parsnips, leeks, onions, beetroot, peas which were sold at Burton Market and to villagers from a converted poultry shed at the farm.

Walter Bramley

Headmaster at Whittington School from 1901 - 1925

Originally from Oldham, Lancashire, Walter Bramley became Headmaster of the school in 1901. He lived at the Schoolhouse on the crossroads with his wife, Elizabeth, and daughters Alice and Elizabeth Mary. Following the First World War, Mr Bramley organised concert parties with the school children and from the money raised he commissioned the War Memorial in memory of the former pupils of the school who gave their lives in the conflict. He retired after 24 years service in 1925.

 

Nurse Darby

District Nurse from 1926 - 1976

In 1926, Doris May Darby, a newly qualified 18 year-old nurse came to the village and here she spent the rest of her life. One of Whittington’s long term residents remembers: "With a capable nurse and friend like Nurse Darby in the community, very often villagers would rely on her advice and treatment rather than go to see a Doctor, although her main task was village Midwife, on-call twenty four hours a day." She delivered well over a thousand Whittington babies. In 1964 Nurse Darby was awarded the MBE for her work in the community. Darby Avenue is named after her.

Horace Frederick Deakin

Farmer at Sheepwash Farm from c.1920 - 1949

Henry Deakin kept Sheepwash Farm from the 1890s. It was predominantly an arable farm with an orchard and some pigs. He passed it on to his son Horace Frederick 'Fred' Deakin in around 1920 and he farmed around 50 acres with his family for around 30 years. He married Mary Mann, daughter of Tommy Man in c.1930.

Harry Farnsworth

Village Butcher c.1895 - 1940

Harry Farnsworth was the village butcher for over 40 years. He killed all the animals on the premises at Dawson House on Main Street and produced sausage, pigs’ pudding, pickled beef and faggotts.  Before the days of refrigerators, Mrs Farnsworth had to fetch ice once a week from Burton in an old Ford van to keep the meat fresh. Any cooking he had to do was taken to the Baker’s oven at Astons. The family also had a small shop at the Main Street end of the premises, where they sold green groceries, sweets and some fancy goods. He later passed the business on to his son Bill. The butchers closed in the early 1950s.

Frank Foster

Landlord of The Dog, Builder, Village Undertaker, District & Parish Councillor

Frank Foster was the Landlord of The Dog for 27 years from 1917 to 1944.  He was first elected to the Parish council in 1919. He played an active role in village life, serving on both the District and Parish Councils for many years, he was treasurer of the football club, village undertaker and member of the Buffaloes (a masonic society). Died in 1955 aged 84.

Tom Linney

Chauffeur and Petrol Garage Owner

Tom Linney was originally a Footman at Whittington Old Hall, but rose to become Chauffeur to the Seckhams (who lived at the Old Hall.)  Tom's house on the corner of The Green served as the village garage. Petrol was originally served in two gallon cans which were returnable.  Later on - and up until Mr Linney retired - petrol was dispensed by two hand pumps, and could be obtained until about 9.30pm.  He also carried out repairs and sold accessories.

Frederick Mann

Farmer and Insurance Agent

Lived at Hollycott Villas. He was the brother of Tommy Mann, the farmer of Rock Farm, and father of Charlie Mann, from whom Jim Cooper bought the farm.

Thomas & Kitty Mann

Farmers at Rock Farm

Milk was delivered morning and night by Tommy Mann of Rock Farm. Milk was measured out by the pint at your door into your own jug. Tommy Mann also served for some years on the Parish Council.

 

Rock Farm was sold in the early 1960s to provide the land to build the Spring Lane housing development.

Hennis Arms Pass

Proprietor of The Bell & Farmer

Hennis Arms Pass was born in 1860. He inherited The Bell from his father Abraham Pass.  Hennis and his wife Isabella had four children, with only their daughter Cecily surviving into adulthood. He built a house called Callingswood at the crossroads on Back Lane and owned land around it which he farmed. He kept the Bell for around 20 years until his death in 1916.

Adolphus John Pass

Gardener & Village Lamplighter

Adolphus John 'Jack' Pass lived No. 1 The Green with his wife Priscilla and 8 children. Born in 1870 Jack was apprenticed as a professional gardener at Newton Park Hall, near Burton-upon-Trent, then began work at Whittington Old Hall. Later he became Head Gardener at Whittington Barracks Military Hospital until his retirement in 1935. Jack was actively involved in village life, from visiting and paying sick members of the Oddfellows Society (an early form of health insurance) to lighting the village street lamps in the days before electric light. Jack could be found smoking his pipe in The Bell each evening until his death in 1953.

Samuel Lipscomb Seckham

Architect, investor, magistrate & High Sheriff of Staffordshire

Born in Oxford in 1827, Seckham trained to be an architect in London. He gained fortune and notoriety in the 1850s by designing and speculating on Park Town in Oxford. He moved to London in 1870s and became a successful investor in a Northampton Brewery, with a country retreat at Hanch Hall in Longdon. In 1878 he bought and redeveloped Bletchley Park (later of WWII codebreaking fame). He then moved to Beacon Place in Lichfield in 1881 with a household of servants to look after his large family. In 1889 he bought the dilapidated Whittington Old Hall and spent a small fortune restoring it. By the time of his death in 1901, at the age of 73, he had become a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant, and represented Lichfield on the Staffordshire County Council. He was survived by 4 sons and 5 daughters. Seckham Road near Beacon Park in Lichfield is named after him.

Frances Ethel Smith

Founder of The Boys Club

Born into a wealthy family in 1870 Ethel Smith, or Miss Smith as she was known to villagers, ran the The Boys Club. Founded as a bible class in the 1890s, the club evolved into a sports and social club. Originally held in an outbuilding of Whittington House, which was owned by her family.  In December 1900 they moved to a purpose built wooden hall next to the church. One villager remembers "In its hey-day the club was open five nights a week from six to nine thirty, the subscription was sixpence a month and was open to males over 14 years old.  The Club had one full sized billiard table, one half sized billiard table, table tennis table, dart board, shooting gallery for air rifles, cards, dominoes, draughts and ropes with large rings on the end, on which could be hooked two parallel bars for gymnastics, boxing gloves were also available and were often in use." Miss Smith remained actively involved with her club until her death in 1952.

 

Thomas Spencer

Co-Founder of Marks & Spencer

Born in Skipton, Yorkshire in 1852, Thomas Spencer invested £300 in a business venture with Michael Marks in 1894 and the rest is history!

 

After building a hugely successful retail business Thomas retired to pursue his love of farming. In 1903, he and his wife Agnes moved to High Hill Farm on Darnford Lane, Whittington Hill. He died two years later at the young age of 53.

 

He was buried in St Giles Churchyard. The Thomas Spencer Hall is named after him, and was made possible by a donation from Marks and Spencer in 1984.

Dr Sydney Tomkys

Village Doctor

During the 1920s the doctor held a surgery in Mrs Priscilla Pass’s parlour, at No. 1 The Green. For 15-20 years once a week Dr Tomkys came on a push-bike from Lichfield. There was no appointment system and patients used to wait in the kitchen.  Consequently, if the surgery ran over, the Pass family’s lunch would be held up.  Strictly speaking the surgery was only for members of the Manchester Unity Friendly Society Independent Order of Odd Fellows, but no villagers were turned away.  Until 1948 (the start of the NHS) in order to see a doctor or go to hospital, people had to pay, so many therefore joined friendly societies like the Odd Fellows – an early form of private health insurance.

 

 

Tom 'Tatty' Windridge

Village Blacksmith from c.1900 - 1950

Born in nearby Comberford in 1832, Richard Windridge married a Whittington girl, Matilda Bridgen, in 1866 and set up his smithy in the village. They had 9 children.

 

His second son, Alfred Windridge joined his father's business in around 1890. Thomas, the youngest son, joined his brother on leaving school in 1900, following the death of their father the year before. Alfred died at the early age of 27, leaving Tommy, known as 'Tatty' by villagers, to run the business with the help of his mother until he came of age. The blacksmith's shop moved from the bottom of their garden in Church Street to Herbert Langton’s premises & then, when Langton Crescent was built, into Chapel Lane next to where the PO telephone exchange is today. During WWII Tatty Windridge was a Special Constable of Whittington Police. He died in 1955, survived by his wife Ada.

© 2016 Whittington History Society