I was born on 5 December 1923 in one of the two cottages nearest to the Chapel in Huxley (the cottage in which Alice was born is currently being completely renovated 2013). When I was 4, my family moved to a bungalow, ‘Rose Cottage’, on Tattenhall Road. It was on the canal side and opposite the Boneworks. My father worked for LN Jones at Aldersey Arms. We then moved into one of Crow’s Nest Cottages, the row of cottages behind the bungalow, near to the old Brickworks.
The image* below gives a fantastic aerial view of everything that Alice mentions – the family bungalow ‘Rose Cottage’ is clearly visible adjacent to the canal, as are ‘Crow’s Nest Cottages, which are located behind Alice’s early home and in the far left of this photograph. The extent of the Boneworks can be clearly seen on Tattenhall Road. In the immediate foreground is the old ‘Brickworks’.
I couldn’t swim – I only went in once – that was all. My brothers tied a rope around me and onto the fence and that’s how I got in the canal. I didn’t like it.
The stench from the Boneworks – don’t mention it – I can smell it now. It always smelled, our bungalow was right opposite – it was worse in the summer months. There was a big manure heap with elephant manure from the zoo. It used to come in off the railway and was brought by a horse and cart and was dumped right in front of our bungalow. The bones came in the same way and they were all piled up (life at the Boneworks is also remembered in Philip Randles oral history).
My Uncle Frank worked at the Boneyard and he fell through the ‘Cracker Shed’ roof (the shed in which the bones were kept and where they were cracked). He was mending the roof but he fell and broke his arm; gangrene set in and he had to have his arm amputated to the shoulder. He didn’t work after that. Jellies were made at the Boneworks, except for being flavoured. It was a big concern with quite a lot of employees. There were also the ‘Barracks’, the tied cottages which were eventually signed over to the tenants who were living there. I did hear that on one day the tenants of the cottages were told to bring £1 to work and the deeds of the cottages were signed over to the them.
My Grandfather asked me where I sat in the classroom and I told him that I was seated at the desk by the door that goes into the playground – there were two big yards at the back. He told me to look at the stone windowsill where I would see a ‘V’. Apparently the Headmaster threw a slate at my Grandfather which missed him but took a ‘V’ shaped chunk out of the windowsill. He was right, it was there.
We had Bible Reading first thing, followed by Arithmetic and then English. In the afternoon we had History, Geography, Reading and Poetry – things like that. The room on the right next to what is now ‘Nisa’ was for the infants and we had a large stove in the room to heat it. There was also a room in the middle which was a cookery room and on one day a fortnight, pupils learned cookery.
I remember the processions – I was a member of the Oddfellows. The Wakes Days were always held in June every year and we would walk with our Flower Wands on the Monday. Mrs Jones from the Aldersey always helped me make my Wand, she was good with flowers. I felt awful because I always got 1st prize! All the children assembled at the Barbour Institute and Mr Breen (brother of Nel Breen) used to come and judge the Wands. In procession, the boys and girls would then go up to the Church and have a service, then up to the Flacca Field where we used to have games (you would have finished with your Wand by then and your mother would have taken it). We then went back to the Institute for tea and then back to the Flacca. LN Jones paid for all the school children to have a free ride on the hobby horses which I never did because they went round and round and made me feel sick. When the Wakes processions died out, the ‘Rose Queen’ took over which was held at the Rookery, on the Rectory Lawns and at Brook Hall, it was lovely there. (When asked if Alice knew Mr Taylor at Brook Hall, her response was ‘Oh Lord yes, I even had a ride on Grakle’).
I was friendly with the Jones’ daughters who rode and they had a spare pony. I used to play and ride with them and we went up to Mr Taylor’s at Brook Hall. He had beautiful horses, one was called Pierre Toy and, of course, Grakle. The two girls rode him up and down the yard and one day the Groom asked if I would like to ride him – the Groom put me up on Grakle and walked me round the yard. Click on – ‘Grakle – Winner of the 1931 Grand National Steeplechase’ to be directed to this section of the Website.
I used to go dancing – I loved dancing. I used to go out with some of the boys from our own Regiment to dances at the Barbour Institute and to the Cinema in Chester – we always used the train.
During World War II, I married George Eric Dutton – I was 20 years old. We were married at St. Alban’s Church and we had our reception at The Sportsman’s on Burwardsley Road. There was a room above what was Vernon’s, the butcher, which they hired out. My husband worked first at Hatton Hall Farm and then, for 49 years, at Gatesheath Hall Farm where he managed the farm for Mrs Clegg. She was very good.
We moved into No 2 Gatesheath Hall Cottages on Chester Road, right next to the railway line (these cottages were demolished in 2012 and a pair of new detached houses are scheduled to be built on the site). Black steam engines used to go right past the house (don’t mention the smuts) the 7.30, 8.30, 9.45 and then back at 11.55 from Chester and 12.30ish. In the afternoon there was the 3.30, 4.30, 5.30, 6.30 and the last train was 7.35pm. The night train was a menace until you got used to it, the whole house rattled.
My Uncle Tom was down at ‘Tattenhall Station’. He was the Station Master, well he was called the ‘Porter’ because the Station Master was at ‘Tattenhall Road Station’. I would often nip up onto the railway line and walk down the track to go and see Uncle Tom and Auntie Elsie between the 6.30 and 7.35 trains. It would only take 10 minutes. Auntie Elsie would often walk back with me half way to Gatesheath Cottages. When I was heavily pregnant with my first son, Andrew, I was terrified because there were some weasels on the line and I managed to step on one – Nora Frost’s husband said ‘you’ve killed it’. (Nora Frost was Alice’s cousin and the daughter of Tom and Elsie Davenport).
The engine driver, the stoker and the guard would all wave at the children – it was like something out of the ‘Railway Children’. Gangs also repaired the lines and they would bring their billy cans to be filled with hot water. We used to brew all their tea for them.
My children, Andrew, Timothy and Hannah were all born at No 2 Gatesheath Hall Cottages. Dr Kershaw would attend with a midwife – he was absolutely smashing. His surgery was opposite what is now Tattenhall Centre and Dr Dwyer was at Jupiter House, now Alison’s. The children were all born, schooled, left home and were married from the Cottage. The children used to cycle to the village schools or used the Crosville bus.
During the War there were 2 or 3 plane crashes near to the Cottage. A bomb landed at ‘4 Lanes End’ and killed the cattle in the shippan. A fire bomb set the farm on fire on the corner of of ‘4 Lanes End’ (the same farm) and killed all the cattle. There were 2 plane crashes – one in the field by Tattenhall Road near to Arden’s Farm and one on Gatesheath Road which went into a tree. I also remember the Black Americans in the village – when I used to cycle to Tattenhall Station to get the early train into work there was always a Black American brushing near to where the Garage used to be and he always shouted out ‘Good Morning Ma’am’. I think the Black Americans were billeted at the Rookery (in the out buildings), up in Edge Croft House, at the Righi in the out houses, at the Lion House in the stables and out houses, at Brook Hall (in the bailiffs houses) and at Mill Bank up on Burwardsley Road. I also remember the Evacuees from Liverpool and our own 68th Liverpool Regiment. During the war, I worked in the machine shop at the Munitions Factory in Newgate Street, Chester, making electrical components for guns.
My favourite shop in the village was Bateman’s, run by his nephew. I used to get all my clothes from Bateman’s and my shoes from his shoe shop further up the High Street. Once, I bought some lovely shoes from Bateman’s and then found that Nora Frost had bought the identical shoes! There was no need to go into Chester, we had everything here and Bateman’s also delivered the groceries.
From the early 1960s until the late 1980s I worked as a Cook, first at the Secondary School where there were 3 kitchen staff to feed 160-200 school pupils and 3 teachers, then, from 1975, at the Education Residential Centre. We provided a cooked breakfast, packed lunch and hot evening meal, as well as changing the beds and other housekeeping duties for 40 pupils a week. Mark Fisher was the Principal in those days.
I moved out of No 2 Gatesheath Hall Cottages in the mid 1990s when my husband retired from farming. After he died, I became heavily involved in the centenary celebrations of the Barbour Institute in 1997, I ran the ‘Forget-Me-Not Club’ for 12 years and I now go the Diamond Club every week. I have enjoyed being involved in village activities for many, many years.
* Particular thanks to the family of ‘Donald Good’ who was a popular local photographer and the studio of whom was located in the former Tattenhall Home for Boys. The photographs of the Boneworks, featured above, were taken by Donald Good (click here to access his story).