Stillington Tradesmen in WWII
by Dennis Law
Mr Gibson the Miller
Mr. Ned Gibson, the miller ground farmers corn at Stillington mill. He wore an old trilby and smock white all over in meal dust. He would spend time at the mill door to get some fresh air and smoke his Gold Flake cigarettes. His brother Bill used to deliver the milled meal to farmers around Marton and Farlington and would usually end up at the Blacksmiths Arms, after which his trusty horse would see him safely back to the mill.
Just off the roadside near the mill was a small building that housed a gravity pump that pumped river water up to Stillington Hall. The pump is still there today.
Thos. Wood and Sons the Builders
Woodville builders yard stood at the bottom of the green. Sand and gravel was delivered by lorry and put into bays. Wick lime was put into big wooden troughs and mixed with water to make lime mortar. Sometimes cow hair was mixed into it for plastering etc. The firm had no mechanised transport so all the materials had to be barrowed around the village.
Everything was mixed by hand - no cement mixers in those days! There was also no choice in bricks - ours came from Strensall brickyard. A sample of these bricks can be seen at Craven Farm, built by Thos. Wood and Sons. There was no metal scaffolding either. It was made of wood, 20ft long and 4" in diameter, made from fir trees. These were lashed together with ropes and tied with a special knot.
Woods built several air-raid shelters in the village, two of which remain. One at the back of Woodville and the other at Pond House.
Woods were renowned for their first-class workmanship under the watchful eye of Mr. Clarrie Shepherd.
Mr. Jackson the Tailor
I don't know a lot about Mr. Jackson the tailor but he lived opposite the village hall. A quiet sort of chap, he was always well dressed as befits a tailor. He made suits, breeches, shirts etc. for the local farmers.
Mary Richardson the Midwife (also known as Auntie Mary)
Mary was the good Samaritan of the village. She took in lodgers, helped the sick and housebound and nursed them as well as being the village midwife. She also laid out the dead.
Hughie Morse the Blacksmith
Hughie Morse worked at The Forge on the Green. I think his main speciality was shoeing horses and his shoeing shed was at the back of the shop. There was a front wall to tie up to four horses and an open back - you needed an open back when shoeing a two year old for the first time! He also used to make farm implements and always had implements outside the front for awaiting repair.
Hughie was a big breeder of rabbits, dogs and fancy pigeons which he kept in the loft above the blacksmiths shop. He was a world renowned expert and judged in the Americas. I remember a little bloke called 'Jack Willy' who had no home but who slept in the loft with the pigeons. Hughie also had a fish and chip shop which had been converted out of his front room.
Bob Atkinson the Garage and Shop Owner (and taxi driver!)
Bob Atkinson ran the Garage and Shop on the green. There were not many cars about in those days but Bob had one of the first cars in the village and ran it as a taxi. Outside the garage there was just one hand operated pump. I think he would sell as much paraffin as petrol back then. He sold bicycles and repaired them. He had a shed in his back garden which housed a billiard table where some of the men used to play. I am told my Dad used to play there.
Willy Alder, Joiner and Cabinet Maker
Willy Alder lived in Main St., next to the Chandlers where they used to make candles. Willy had a small workshop. I was told he used to make grandfather clock cases for “Richardson & Bakers" of Easingwold. He lived on his own and I remember one mischief night knocking on his door. He grabbed one lad, Basil Johnson, gave him a clip round the ear and locked him up - which definitely spoiled Basil's mischief night!
Bogser Burnett the Blacksmith
Bogser Burnett lived in Main St., next to Hutchinson's shop. His Blacksmith’s shop was next door but one to the White Bear pub. He did not shoe horses but repaired implements and other general repairs such as kitchen utensils etc. I remember pulling his shop down and taking the Georgian two inch bricks into York for conservation work near York Minster.
Sid Metcalfe the Butcher
Sid Metcalfe's shop was next door to the Blacksmiths! He lived in the house next door where his wife used to bake the pork pies etc.
I remember there was sawdust on the floor but still wonder why. His slaughter house was behind the White Bear pub where he killed and prepared all his own meat. Young John Sparrow used to help to fill the sausages.
Monday was killing day and during lunch break, three or four of us lads had to go and help to pull the bullock in for slaughter - all part of village life in those days.
J. B. Hutchinson of 'The Stores'
The shop was located next to the school and sold everything trade in sweets bought by the school kids next door. J. B. Hutchinson's had a warehouse at the back where they sold hen corn meal and block salt for curing hams etc. Coal was bagged and paraffin sold. Groceries were delivered by bike to outlying farms after Mr. Hutchinson had visited the previous week to take the orders.
Souter's, Grocers and Provisions Merchant
Souter’s shop was also located on Main St. The shop window is still there. The Souters themselves lived in the house next door, now Yew Tree House. It was a very old-fashioned shop where its own coffee was ground and lard, butter and cheese were cut off large blocks. It was a work of art to cut just the right amount for each customer. Sugar, currants and raisins all came in sacks and were then weighed into 1lb and 2lb blue bags. Sweets were all in big glass jars which the grocer then put into hand-made packets the shape of ice-cream cornets.
There were two shop assistants - one cycled from York each day and the other from Sutton-on-Forest. Souters used to deliver to farms using a horse and rulley (a four wheeled vehicle) - the stables are still there at the back of Yew Tree House. Mr. Souter was one of the first people to own a car in the village.
Arthur North, Cobbler
Next to Souters' Shop on Main St. was the Cobblers. Arthur kept goal for the village football team. Beside s mending shoes and boots, he also repaired horse harnesses and leather leggings for farmers. There is still a ring on the wall where horses were tied up. His leather was brought from York by Jonty Bielby the local carrier on his three-wheeled bike. After work his son Cyril would go to meet him and give him a tow-home.
The shop was a meeting place for old men of the village, smoking and chewing twist tobacco. Frank Lowther could spit with great accuracy into the fire from five yards away. The cobbler also sold lemonade, supplied weekly by Mustills of Boroughbridge at two and a half pence a bottle with a halfpenny back on the bottle. He also gave out the meal ration for the pigs in the village. It was delivered in eight stone sacks by Bradshaws of Driffield. He always had a fire and a pan of pig potatoes from which we lads would nick one or two - he did not mind. He always worked after tea and us lads met there to keep warm on winter nights.
He also repaired flying jackets for the Canadian airmen at Eastmoor, Sutton. Us lads were always asking their batmen for chewing gum.
There was a plaque on the wall cut out in fret work which went like this:
Please do not ask for credit.
The clock we have is out of order.
Therefore there is no TICK.
The Post Office
Thirza Gibson, Post Mistress
William Gibson, Registrar
Telegrams were sent and received at the post office and delivered to your door - and you hoped it was not bad news. There were very few telephones in the village then. Letters were sorted and delivered around the village as well as Marton and Farlington by bike: The postmen would be given their breakfast on their rounds. Letters were even delivered on Christmas day. The postman got so drunk he could not ride his bike!
Dr. Bullen, General Practitioner
Dr. Bullen lived in the Admirals House. He had a car and was driven around by Mr. Albert North. A lot of people were treated in their homes in those days. If you were poor he would charge a small fee or take something in lieu. He would pull teeth out at the surgery -I can remember it well!
There were not many tablets then - medicine was given out in different coloured bottles sealed with a cork stopper (no it wasn't red or white wine). Mr. Bullen died and the practice was taken over by his son Eric who had a new house and surgery built opposite the village pond - the last house to be built before the second World War. One day he was called out to a farmer and gave him a bottle of medicine which he did not like the taste of and would not drink it. His wife promptly said "Give it to me - We're not going to waste it!"
Hugill Joiners, Wheelwrights and Undertakers
The Hugills had a workshop on the corner of York Rd. All hand work except for a saw pit for large timbers. I used to go and get sawdust for our rabbits. There were two brothers - Ned and Harry Hugill - and not many words passed between them. When working in the village or on farms, one would walk behind the other pushing their wooden wheelbarrows. They used to make cart wheels. Us lads used to bowl them down the street to be hooped by Hughie Morse the blacksmith. They also made coffins. At funerals, the coffins were put on a rulley and pulled by a horse. Whenever a funeral party was passing, the curtains in the village were drawn and people stood and took off their hats out of respect.
Ted Hope, Haulier and Coal Merchant
Ted Hope led material for Woods builders and local farmers. Ted and his wife Nelly used to run ballroom dance classes in the village hall and surrounding villages. He was known as "Twilight Ted" as he always delivered coal at night -I wonder why?
Colin Kay, Cattle Remover
Anna and Bob Leeman, Collected rabbit skins
Harry Crow, Mole Catcher
He used to skin them then nail the skins to a fence to dry.
A rag-and-bone man used to come round with his horse and flat cart, crying out "Rags or Bones!"
A man used to come round selling pickled herrings.
Also a knife and scissor sharpener with his sharpener attached to his bike wheel.
There were lots of them in the village. Access to them was from North and South Back Lanes. Typically small holders kept a sow or two or three milking cows or perhaps horses. Milk from the cows was fed to the calves and made into butter. Small holders did not have many implements - a plough, set of harrows - the rest was done by hand. They all helped each other and the bigger farmers on threshing days at harvest and hay time. The largest of the small holdings would have one or two corn stacks and a bit of hay for the stock. The small farmers had a few acres of land on the "Half Acre' strip and a piece of land down Roseberry Lane. Some also had a paddock or two or grazed cattle on the road sides.
The horse drawn snow plough was kept at Algie Richardson’s. Most of the fields were small grass paddocks with the old rig and furrow, sometimes with a pond. They grew turnips, carrots and potatoes.
Manor Farm, Main St. employed three or four men: two of them lived in with the farmer. The men slept in the attic up the back stairs. First job in the morning would be to feed the horses before leading them out to the stone water trough near the stable filled by a pump from the well. The corn for the horses was kept in the granary above the stable, mainly oats, bran and chaff.
The farm kept eight to ten milk cows which were milked by hand and was used to rear calves. The fold yard opened on to North Back Lane, flanked on one side by a passage and loose boxes leading to the barn. It housed hay straw, mangolds and turnips which were sliced in the hand operated chopper and fed to the animals out of a scuttle carried on the shoulder.
Linseed and cotton cake were delivered in slabs and crushed through a cake crusher then fed as protein to the cattle. The pigs were housed in sties and were fed from outside through a hole in the wall - water and meal mixed together and poured in. There was a 'muck' midden in the yard where horse and cow manure was piled up.
There was the stack yard up South Back Lane where the corn stacks were neatly stacked and thatched. Mangold and turnip pies housed the roots for the stock. There would be lots of rats about in the pies and corn stacks which was good sport for the Jack Russell terriers.
Most of the land was in the North Back Lane and on Easingwold Rd. The farmer grew com, mainly for the stock and ground it at Stillington mill. Carrots and potatoes were pied in the field, strawed and soiled and kept over winter. The potato pies were opened up in spring and sorted by a hand sorting machine, sets taken out and used again.
Two farm labourers having a pint in the pub ... "What's tha been doing today Jack?"
"I've been ploughing - about four acres. I just got it finished and t'boss telled me to plough it again!"
He was not a happy man - it would have taken him at least two weeks with a pair of horses.
Farming could be a hard life.