Mrs Clara Winifred Playford (nee Spinks)
|Part 1||Part 2||Part 3||Part 4||Part 5|
|In a letter to her
I have, for some time, been contemplating writing down some recollections of my childhood and youth in Norfolk. One day you may be interested enough to read it. Of course, I think that they were wonderful, happy, carefree times, so, on this cold February day, with the snow falling outside, I will make a start.
4 The Beck
Feb 14th 1986
While we were living at Brook House, Tarrington, Auntie Nell was suddenly taken very ill, so I put this in a drawer and forgot all about it. Shortly afterwards we moved to Mayfield House, Whitestone, Herefordshire where Nell died. Your father was Sales Office Manager at the Hereford Tiles and I did the decorated tiles for them; so, I led a busy life for the next two years, until we retired, and later came up to Norfolk. Now that we are back in Feltwell, Norfolk, I feel that I should like to add a bit more to these pages.
We Were Seven
For me, the number seven has always been a magic number, perhaps because we were, counting my father, and mother, seven in our family. My parents came to live in Feltwell when they were married and grew to like it so much that they stayed there for the rest of their lives.
Feltwell is in South West Norfolk and is situated on the edge of the Fens. It is in the shape of a figure eight, and to walk all round the village took about half-an-hour. We lived in a small house on the edge of the village. It was very solidly built of local flint. From our windows we could see the flat fields stretching away for miles, with a few other houses dotted about and the Mill, where the corn was ground and the bread baked standing up in the distance, with its arms to the sky.
We were a very happy, united family. My father (ARTHUR ERNEST SPINKS 1876-1938) had absolutely no ambition, but was perfectly content with his lot, just doing his daily work, which meant rising at five o’clock in the morning, going to the Mills, making and delivering the bread. He drove in his yellow cart for miles around, to Hockwold, Methwold and all round the Fens, often not coming home until 10 o’clock at night. Everyone loved him and would look forward to his visits. He had a cheery smile and a kind word for everyone. When we were small children we would love to go for a ride on top of his cart – or if it rained we were just put down in the bottom of the cart, or bundled inside with the bread.
My mother (FLORENCE EMMA WOODWARD 1880-1956), too, just lived for her family. She always seemed to be busy, and very rarely went outside her home, unless it was to church on Sunday, or for a walk round the village. She was a wonderful cook, and every Saturday she would devote the whole morning to baking pies, cakes, tarts and pastries of every description, until at last she had baked enough to last the week. When I grew older I would help her too. Anything that was left over in the cake-tins from the previous week she would give away, so that we often had some small boys coming to the door to ask if Mrs Spinks had any stale buns.
During the afternoon she would rest, and then feeling refreshed for the evening, the sewing machine would be placed on the big table, and she would stitch away as hard as she could go, making trousers and shirts for the boys, or wonderful dresses for the girls. These dresses, I remember, were beautifully made having frills, and pleats, and lovely yokes of inset lace. Often a garment was started overnight, and was ready for us to put on in the morning. Mother was most particular about our clothes, and we always had to put on a white embroidered pinafore over our dresses when we got home from school.
When we were small she did have a woman to help with the washing, and on a Monday morning just before we set off for school Mrs Everitt would arrive. She was a big, kindly woman with a smiling face, and her fair hair was scraped into a bun at the back of her head. She came down our lane in the mornings wearing a very large white apron, and under her arm she carried her course, striped apron, which she would tie round her ample form while she rubbed away at the clothes. On her head she wore a large black straw hat with a nodding white rose in the front. I often wondered how it perched there so securely until I realised it was held in position by elastic. At precisely 11 o’clock she would stop for her lunch of a glass of beer and bread and cheese, and then would work on again until all was done, and everything spotlessly clean.
When the children were born Mother enlisted the services of the village mid-wife. Grannie Brown, as she was called, was a wonderful person, who, not only looked after Mother, but managed the whole household as well. I remember wondering why she sometimes came to stay with us, and why she should have to make our breakfast porridge, and send us off to school, sharply reminding us to hurry along with our breakfast, and not to be late. I would run down to the village with a note for her and usually in the evening she would arrive in her little black bonnet and frilled black cape which was sewn all over with black beads (or bugles as they were called). From then on, for about a week, she took complete charge of us all. With her bright little face, and keen blue eyes she endeared herself to us all, and I was always sorry when she had to leave us to go to another house in the village where her services were needed.
My father and mother were both devoted parents, and were thrilled with each new addition to the family. My sister Nell (NELLIE MABEL SPINKS 1904-1963) was the oldest and she was inclined to mother us all. When she was still in her early teens she would bribe the two boys to go to bed early with promises of small packets of sweets, which were duly placed on the chest of drawers. When they were safely tucked up in bed then she would proceed to tidy up every nook and corner of the downstairs rooms. As far back as I can remember she had always wanted to be a milliner, probably after watching one of my aunts who, either made a new hat or redecorated her old picture hat on Saturday nights ready for church on Sunday. So when she left school, my parents apprenticed her to the local draper’s shop, where she was quite happy for many years and when they moved to London, it was not long before she joined them.
I (CLARA WINIFRED SPINKS 1905-1990) was only just over a year younger than Nell, so that we were very good companions when we were small, although quite different in appearance and character. Nell was jolly and laughed a lot and loved mixing with people and having fun. I was smaller and much quieter and even now I remember just sitting on a hard chair in the kitchen and wondering why the sky was blue, or the grass green or why the stars stayed up in the sky.
My sister and I always played lots of ‘pretend’ games, which included weddings and funerals, and the washhouse was lavishly decorated with sprigs of may-blossom, or cow parsley from the hedgerows. Our two brothers and all the neighbours’ children were roped in too. But best of all I would like to pretend to be a teacher and I remember that when I was quite small, my friend and I would each teach a section of her father’s raspberry canes. I am glad to say that I was able to realise my ambition and I can never cease to be thankful when I think of the sacrifices that my parents had to make for me. It was a very happy day for me when at the age of eighteen I started to teach at Northwold Infants School and a year later in the Feltwell village school and I stayed there for about eleven years.
I was just over three years old when Bill (WILLIAM FREDERICK SPINKS 1907-1985) was born. My father and mother were delighted to have a son, and my aunts too completely spoiled him. As a small boy he was very sturdy and had round rosy cheeks and a most lovable disposition. He would walk around the garden for hours, talking to his old teddy bear, and when tired would curl up and go to sleep just wherever he happened to be. After searching for ages we once found him asleep under the strawberry nets. My father loved to take him wherever he went and on leaving school Bill joined him at the Mills. The very early mornings and the long hours were a tiring life for a young boy, but he managed to find time for tennis and dancing. I was usually bribed to clean his shoes and press his clothes when he was going to a tennis match. As a reward I would probably be taken at hair-raising speed on the back of his motorcycle. He would think nothing of taking my sister or I to Norwich (forty miles away) to buy a new hat. One old man who was taken by my brother to Yarmouth for the day said "Never again". The time came when Bill felt that he would like to leave home, and as soon as he was old enough he went to London, where he joined the Police Force.
Bill was only about two and a half years old when George (GEORGE SPINKS 1910-1925) was born. They were not a bit alike to look at, and never seemed to want to play together as Nell and I did, perhaps because Dad took Bill with him whenever he could, to relieve Mother.
George was the sweetest boy, and loved smaller children, birds and animals. His black and white terrier would follow him everywhere, and his pigeons would perch on his shoulders and arms when he whistled them down for their food. He was always delicate, and suffered much with very bad headaches. Consequently he only had to attend school when he felt well enough. He was most devoted to mother, and on the days when she announced at breakfast time, that she would visit my grandmother he was always delighted to accompany her. Somehow, he managed to feel well enough to do that, and the three-mile walk to Methwold was much to be preferred to going to school, which he hated anyway. My memory of George is of a tall, upright boy with fair hair that simply would not brush down flat and laughing deep blue eyes.
It was a great shock to us all when George was accidentally drowned at the age of fifteen. I believe that he and another boy tried to cross the River Ouse on a raft, but the other boy was so frightened that he ran away, so we never really knew quite how it happened.
My mother was very ill for a long time after this, and my youngest sister Kathleen, who was only ten years old at that time sadly missed him.
Kathleen (KATHLEEN VERA SPINKS 1916-2002)was the youngest member of our family, and I believe her arrival was somewhat unexpected, nevertheless, everyone was thrilled to have another baby in the house, to fuss over. Nell especially loved to dress Kathleen in a silk bonnet and dress and wheel her out in the pram. But this did not suit my small sister at all, for even as a small child she would much rather play with my brothers and their friends than be taken out for walks. She could climb the tallest trees around the house, and run races with the best of them. Mother would sometimes walk down with her and meet us coming out of school, but when they reached the turn in the road, Kathleen usually refused to move unless they went along Bell Street, where there were sweet shops. She was a most determined child, and would hang on to the lamp post or any available object until Mother gave in and a small pale-faced little girl got her bag of sweets. I suppose that, having so many aunts and brothers and sisters around her, it was understandable that as a small child, she was rather spoilt. We were rarely given money to spend as children, but on a Saturday night, four bags of sweets were placed by the side of our beds. It was always exciting waking up on a Sunday morning and opening these mysterious bags of sweets. But, somehow, for my small sister Kathleen things were different. My father would always give her money to spend, and she would go down to the village on a Saturday night and buy her own sweets, coming home with several white paper bags. Then she would perch on a table, which was quite near to my father’s armchair, place one arm around his neck and look inside these wonderful bags and share the contents. At this time, of course I was teaching in the school where Kathleen was a pupil. She and her two friends were almost inseparable, and usually the three of them were, jointly, top of their class at the end of term.
(Circa 1928. Taken at the rear of the YMCA Hut on Fair Close.
Top row: Bella Roper, Kathleen Collins (Mother Goose), Queenie Anderson
Second Row: Dorothy Hewitt, Madge Banham, Kathleen Spinks, Mercy Ward, Lucy Manning, Nellie Laws
Front Row: Nancy Steward, Muriel Curtis, Marjorie Steward, Becky Adams, Olive Rice, Edith Ward (Daughter of Charles Ward)
Seated: Raymond Shingfield)
(Photo from Mr Eric Pryer)
For some time after leaving the village school, Kathleen stayed at home, but finally she decided to enter the nursing profession, first of all going to Wisbech for training and then on to Cambridge.