Reminiscences of Mrs Jean Crawford



Reminiscences of Mrs Jean Crawford


Jean's stories about growing up in wartime England. Food features in her tales as do crashed RAF aircraft. She describes village life and personalities then tales about her village school.





Three typewritten sheets


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[bold] REMINISCENCES OF MRS JEAN CRAWFORD (nee Taplin) [/bold]

[bold] HOME LIFE [/bold]

The earliest I remember is a black kitchen range for cooking cakes and Sunday roasts in the oven and vegetables on the top. There was always a kettle on the hob, ready for tea. I had to walk to the village pump to fill a three pint milk can of water until 1946. We were in the council houses when they were built in 1939 (numbers 1-4). Numbers 5-8 were built in 1946/47. We used to fill a bucket full of ain water to flush the toilet. The water was not available although the taps and a cistern were there. A copper was in the corner of the kitchen to boil the washing in, heated by a wood fire underneath. Rainwater was used for bathing and washing. Electric coppers and cooker were used soon after the War in 1947/48. Bread was delivered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The Butcher came on Wednesday and Friday. Groceries were delivered on a Wednesday and you gave your order for the following week.

No central heating of course – as you let the kitchen fire out, we lit the living room five. Mainly wood was burned. My Dad had a cut in Charndon Wood. He would buy a section for pea sticks, bean sticks, firelighting wood (to be tied in faggots) and some thicker bits to be cut into logs. He brought this home in one of the first tractors- Standard Fordson and trailer.

In Winter we lived on rabbit stew and vegetables with dumplings. Dad shot the rabbits and sold them for two shillings and sixpence (half a crown) in the village. We always had a roast on a Sunday, cold on Monday with bubble and squeak as this was always washday. Mum made rissoles on Tuesday. We always had a fruit pie on Sunday, jam tarts for tea, suet puddings such as jam roly poly, spotted dick, or syrup dumplings. In the Summer, we lived on lettuce sandwiches – the lettuce was always out of the garden – never bought. We also had a pig in a sty which was killed once a year and stored it in the bedroom and kitchen. This made two big hams. At killing time there were chitterlings to fry. The fat to cut up and frizzled until all the fat was out which was lard. This left us with scratchings to eat cold with bread which were delicious. The liver was good also. I didn’t like pig’s head – mum used to make brawn.

Mum made all sorts of jams – plum, blackberry and apple, gooseberry, damson. Marmalade was made in January/February with Seville Oranges bought from the greengrocer. The fruits were either grown or relations gave them to you to make jam. We also picked blackberries off the hedgerows.

Another thing of course was chamber pots, always one under each bed for night use only.

At Christmas time some people had a Christmas Tree but we didn’t. My Gran and Grandad would fatter up a cockerel to about 7lbs. This was good cooked with our own vegetables. Gran used to make the pudding and boil in her kitchen copper (with the fire going underneath for 8 hours). She also kept chickens so we had eggs. She used to make rhubarb wine – which was her speciality. We children were not allowed to drink any!

When people died they were kept at home and often the coffin came out of the bedroom window and on the bier to Church. This was a trailer with four wheels and a handle and pulled along manually. The mourners walked behind, always in black.
[bold] WARTIME [/bold]

A Lockheed Hudson crashed by Gubbin’s Hole bridge in Mr Benfield’s field.
A Handley Page Hampden crashed down and all the crew got out. They thought they were in Holland and set fire to it!

I was staying with my Grandparents at Cuddington when a doodlebug switched off as it flew over and crashed at Brill. This frightened them but I was in bed asleep.

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[bold] LEISURE [/bold]

As children we would walk down to Charndon Wood (where the rubbish tip is now) and would pick basketfuls of primroses and later on bluebells. The ground was covered in primroses so peaceful and safe. On the entrance bridleway to the wood gypsies would live for two weeks at a time with the horsedrawn caravans, making clothes pegs from the willow or nut trees, selling them round the village. My mother always bought some.

[bold] WORKING LIFE [/bold]

Two village pumps, one just opposite the Fox Public House and one left of the public footpath to the side of the Leach’s property. They were gravity fed pumps – the two wells were situated in Mr. Howlett’s field by Tim Benfield’s orchard.

In the Summers during the 1950’s and 1960’s the village men used to take a stick and hook and each cut a section of the churchyard and then visit the Fox Inn for light refreshment – a good time was had by all.

The brick lorries used to block the road from Calvert through Edgcott on their return from a day’s delivery of bricks at 20 m.p.h. They were not on piecework then!

After the Second World War women of the village would pick washing trays full of blackberries to sell to a manufacturer to make jam at 2 pence a lb. – going up each year. The youngsters would collect conkers, take them to a collecting point to make glue for the war effort – also rosehips for rosehip syrup and sheep wool off the barbed wire. We used to collect it in buckets, shopping bags or hessian sacks for conkers. Every lawn was dug up and vegetables grown.

Most village people that were not in the Forces were volunteered for the Home Guard. My father worked on the farm (he had a hearing defect). He was up at 5.30 to milk 40 cows by hand, (no heating). Home for breakfast at 8 a.m. – always fried egg and bacon and fried bread. He was back to work at 8.30 a.m. to clean the cowsheds down, sweeping and shovelling the much into a wheelbarrow, putting clean litter down when they stayed indoors in the winter. He swept the yard up when it was laid down to concrete in the late 1940’s. Dinner was at mid-day until 12.30 – 1p.m. depending on whether it was haymaking or harvest time. Milking again at 3.30 p.m. and back home at 5.30 to 6 p.m. depending on whether a cow was calving. In the summer it was back for haymaking and then harvest. Home then was 10 p.m. and a wash with a kettle full of hot water, no shower or bath. That was once a week job on a Friday night in front of the fire in the kitchen.

We went on holiday every other year. Mum would buy the food and make the menu out for the landlady who would cook it for us. Dad would have three pints of milk a day and more in the evening if he wanted it. It was always in a milk can.


Louis Busby lived in Rose Cottage as it is now. He was a very perky 5ft. 7ins. Dressed in a trilby hat, black trousers and dark shirt, very quick in movement and talk – a likeable man.

Old Mrs. Small, whose house was between Rose Cottage and the Post Office, had white hair which she used to put rag curlers in. A rounded lady, always pleasant. Freddy Bradburn found her dead in her cottage when delivering bread.

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They were sisters – the same height – 5ft. 6ins. They were always so neat and trim and very polite and pleasant. They always wore hats and gloves.

Mr. Findlay was a shopkeeper in a little thatched shop where the brick shed is now next to Miss Mortimers. He was tall – 5ft. 11ins., slim and quick walking. He had a glass eye which always stared at you. He sold paraffin for the then much used paraffin stoves to cook on in the Summer.

Old Mrs. Butler – Peter Harper’s Great Grandmother. She was tiny – only 5ft 1in. who was very rounded and also had a glass eye. She always wore black.

Bele Hammond lived in the rectory. She was very much a spinster and always told you off for picking her apples up that had fallen over the hedge. She used to frighten me.

George Barratt lived next door to Manor Farm. He came from Norfolk – a real farm looking gentleman who was a chapel man and also liked hunting. He spoke well and was tallish.

Will Taplin – my father would say what he thought and upset people on several occasions. He used to go to see his father at Grendon Underwood and a neighbour of his told me it was like listening to two foreigners talking. They both had very broad Buckinghamshire accents. Dad used to help the Pensioners in his latter years. He was 5ft.8ins. tall, wore a cap, dark trousers and a jacket and smoked a pipe. He was also deaf but did have a hearing aid the last few years of his life. He loved playing Whist and Dominoes. If you were his partner and played the wrong card you were severely told off!! He died at 80 years.

[bold] EDUCATION [/bold]

Edgcott School closed in 1914/15.

My schooldays began in 1940/41 when my mother took me to school in a seat on her bicycle for 9 a.m. to Grendon Underwood Church of England School. I took sandwiches for my DINNER not lunch. Dinner at mid-day was eater in the playground. Playtimes were at 10.30 a.m. and 2.15 p.m. We did reading, writing and arithmetic, scripture each morning and learned our tables parrot fashion. We had sewing in the headmistress’s garden in the afternoon. 1946 saw me walking to school or maybe a bicycle. Outside toilets were emptied each Friday night. By this time we were having cooked dinners cooked in the canteen built in the playground. We also had cookery lessons in the Saye and Sele Room at Grendon Underwood.

During the war years the evacuees were billeted out to those who had room. Pat Lewis to Mr. And Mrs. Young, Manor Farm, Queenie Lewis to Mr. and Mrs. Barrett next door to Manor Farm. Ann Blue stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Stuchbury at No. 4 Lawn Hill. Betty Pollard, Freddie Bradburn with Mrs Pauline in May House. Shirley Hampton lived in Rectory Farm with her mother and Grandmother – this end nearest the Church when Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Busby lived there. They had a class of their own with their own teacher, Miss Barrett, a fiery woman.

When I was 12 and a half years old I went to Waddesdon Church of England School with all the same age, or older. These were Alan Golby and Brian Bates.
I’d ride my bicycle to Grendon Garage to travel by bus. It took some getting used to. I remember we played netball in shorts and T shirt. I left school at 15 – much to my mother’s annoyance. It was 14 but they put the school leaving age up by one year when it was my turn!

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Jean Crawford, “Reminiscences of Mrs Jean Crawford,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 30, 2024,

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