I was born in West Street, starting at 45 which used to be a grocer's shop, come back a bit, then you've got the thatched cottage shop Mary Parker lived in that, then you've got the cottages, 1 2 3, well we were born in the first one - it's got a porch over the door, my brother and I were born there, ....... then we moved down the bottom of West Street. There was a row of cottages, five cottages, before you got to Shepherd's Halt, or Shepherd and Dog, and we lived in the first one, we had garden to play in, then the big house going towards the town, Lawyer Mason had that. In the end house of the five, Mr Charles kept that, well he use to cure his own fish in there. When they pulled those houses down, in the barn was a toilet. Well in this toilet was a chimney stack, and they wanted to know what it was. "Well", I said, "when he used to do his curing, he used to have the big shed, but when he did his smoked salmon he used to cure it there and when he moved out they turned it into the outside toilet
I tormented the neighbour's boys when I was young - I wanted to go to school with them, but my mum kept saying "they won't take you", but this particular day, because they had to go home for dinner, our school was in St Ann's Lane, and I tormented them and I says to my mum "go and ask Tom Toseland if he'll take me back to school with him", so of course she did and he says to my mum" just put her a clean pinafore on", he says "and I'll take her" and I went to school when I was three.
You know where the home is now, where they built those bungalows, well our school was in there, and they never should have pulled it down, because I want to know who pinched the bell, because I pulled that bell
It was a girl's school, barring the infants, the boys went to the Queen Elizabeth School. When we got in the infants you see, you moved from the baby class to the infants, now old Miss Shaw, she was a lovely teacher, but Miss Scott who was over the lot of them, oh she was dreadful, she'd clout you if you didn't do it right. Well then Doris Gilson, she was our strict teacher, she was the only one who'd get you to learn, she wouldn't let you be a dunce, if you'd got it in you she was going to get it out of you. Well then old Miss Ashcroft, she weren't much good, so my sister and her friend Joan Merry, they used to fetch her out the pub, the Royal Oak, every dinner time, cause she had to teach 6 & 7, I mean they keep on about big classes but... we had partitions in our school, but she took 5, 6 &7. Well this particular day, when they fetched her out the pub, she got the old blackboard going and all of a sudden, whatever she done, the blackboard fell on top of her! We used to go to cookery too at Huntingdon, you see we was a Church of England school and we had to go to cookery with another Church of England School and that was in Walden Road. Well I got friendly with Flossie Clifton and if we got a bit fed up she'd get a lump of soap and she used to slide that to me and I used to slide it back to her...oh yes we had good old days.
The house we lived in was 2 up, 2 down, that's all we had, front room and a kitchen. My mum was a head cook whenever she went to work, and we always had good food and everything. They were only small kitchens, you got your copper in there, and a stove we probably had a gas stove, or was it, no we used to have a little fire in there with an oven, that's in the Winter time we used to take the shelves out the oven, but being as how there were three of us she used to put a brick in, we didn't have hot water bottles.
We went down the brook if it was summer time and we were running short of washing water, that's what kept us going you see we daren't use the pump water cos that's all we had, the pump water was shared between the five houses that was beautiful water. Then we kept our soft water from the tubs for washing and for washing our hair, we never washed our hair in tap water. We used pump water for cooking, for making tea, the soft water was for you to have a bath. You had to put your bath water in the copper to heat it you couldn't put it on the stove, we had an old tin bath in front of the stove.
When we got on a bit I used to do strawberry picking and apple picking in school holidays for Chivers. We went to Histon, we had lorries took us, my mum and I came top of the pickers one year. We used to go to Needingworth for strawberry picking, then along Cambridge Road for apple picking and plum picking. I couldn't stand potato picking, the only thing I liked was beans, we used to go to Offord Hill to Coles's where we used to pick runner beans. We did that during school holidays.
We had three policemen in Godmanchester looked after us. We went scrumping, I'll be honest about it! where you go down the Stiles now there were orchards, where Pipers Lane's all built up was orchards, one of the boys he nearly got caught, he were frightened to death, there was a brick wall along there, I can see him now telling me and I says "Whatever did you do?", he says "Well I daren't breathe, I daren't cough, I daren't do anything", I says "Why?", he says "I could hear them bobbies coming down the Stiles", he said, "and if I made a noise they'd grab me they'd take me home and I'd have got a beating".
Where Farm Hall is, Mrs Toogood, she was the Lady of Godmanchester, she'd speak to anybody, they always had a do there every August Bank Holiday. Well then they started growing peaches in that garden, We only lived a little Way along, it was tempting and it weren't only me it was the boys an all Lawyer Mason who lived in where the Doctor lives now, in the big house next to us he got fed up with us kids. He was very good to the five families at Christmas, you'd get your bunch of holly and you'd get a few apples, you'd get everything for Christmas, but he couldn't stand us going in his orchard you see. As you go across the field, there's a lovely plantation, that went right through to Duck End, well he got so fed up with us he put a donkey in there cos he thought if this donkey neighs, he knew we were in there, well of course the donkey never did neigh, cos we used to ride it up and down the little field
These are some extracts from a recording made on 20th April 1998 of Mrs Deighton of Godmanchester who is 84 years of age. Interviewed by Janet Walker.