OK I know it's a strange way to start a post but while waiting for my Wife a few days back I sat on a bench and watched a pair of Crows hanging around a chimney pot, one perched on the rim of the pot and as his head disappeared into the black depths of the pot interior he showed me his posterior, "nice" I thought, but it transpires Mr Crow and his Missus were building a nest,
Having said that I'm making assumptions it was Mr when it could have been Mrs in which case she behaved like a brazen hussey, showing me her rear in broad daylight.
This is not the Mr Crow or Mrs Crow in question but one I saw today whilst sitting in the garden of the New Inn in Abthorpe village and it reminded me so I thought I would share with you.
I was out and about a few days ago in one of the small villages which surround Northampton, I had taken my Wife to an appointment and had an hour to kill while I waited for her, unusually the sun was shining so to get some much needed exercise I had a wander around the village.
Outside the local village shop was the usual notice board, the ones you see advertising upcoming fetes and village activities, people selling bits and bobs and general stuff, but amongst this one thing that caught my attention was a printed A4 size sheet which gave some details about a lady who was going to give a talk on a book she had written about the Silk Weavers of Northamptonshire.
That immediately piqued my interest as to be honest I knew nothing about the County being associated with silk or textiles of any sort, which is the great thing about life, there is always something you can learn, at least you would hope so, politicians seem to learn nothing from history but that's another story which we won't pursue. :) as it might depress us.
I knew about our great East Midlands rivals Leicesters connection with textiles, and Nottingham's history of lace making but silk making in my own County, every day as they say is a school day.
My aim is always to lift your spirits so you say to yourself "David my old fruit, you have made me smile", whether that be because of the amateur nature of my blog, or its content, if I can raise the merest titter I consider it job done.
I'm finding the modern world and its insanities somewhat taxing at the moment and I always appreciate it myself when someone writes something that elicits a chuckle, Maybe that's what fascinates me about history, as it harks back to what seem simpler times, But then, for the people of the day it life was probably as perplexing and occasionally as irritating and certainly a lot harder than our comparatively comfortable lives.
Anyway without boring you with my thoughts I thought I would look further into the whole thing and started to dig around on the web and as usual came across some fascinating little bits one of which was an old article published back in 2010 by the local Northampton newspaper. I don't generally buy the local rag as its content is usually pretty dire but just occasionally a little gem will crop up within its pages which is worth reading.
The article was entitled "Busy Landlord had three jobs in village", and described how a small village called Abthorpe near Towcester in Northamptonshire ( by the way us
locals pronounce Towcester as Toaster), once had two Public Houses,
The Landlords name was Jim Hinson and he was indeed a productive man, he performed three roles, Landlord, Wheelwright, and Brick and Tile Maker, who said men can't multitask. ?
Now here is the interesting bit, his pub was called "The Stocking Frame", is that not a great name for a pub ?. One I have never come across before, so if you know of a public house which has this name please let me know.
Unfortunately the Pub has long since closed but it turns out that Abthorpe was at that time famous for the manufacture of silk stockings, I had always known about the Counties association with boot and shoe making as do a lot of people I talk to, but I have never in my life heard anybody speak about or mention anything to do with silk.
Apparently one wall in the house comprised of just windows to give the stocking makers a much light as they needed,
Apart from silk making in Abthorpe I also found references in some academic papers of the same thing going on in Rothwell, Corby, Huxloe, Guilsborough amd Spelhoe.
Silk weaving apprarently also flourished in Desborough, Kettering, Daventry, Towcester and Middleton Cheney in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and there is evidence of a silk manufactory at Weedon Bec.
Like a lot of occupations in those days the people whose task was to carry them out faced pretty hard conditions and unforgiving masters, this is covered in Northamptonshire Past and Present and entitled "The inhuman taskmaster: a story of Weedon Bec".
One of these papers made reference to Counties in those days being broken down into smaller administrative units knows as Hundreds, so if you are interested take a look at this link which shows the Hundreds of Northamptonshire.
So once the old brain kicks into life (mine that is) I start to wonder if the village has any connections to the Civil War, and stumbling across the Abthorpe village website I read that what is now the Village Hall was originally built in 1642 as a Free School by the Spinster Jane Leeson, using local stone. So obviously being a fine day a trip out to the village was called for. on arrival I took the picture below which is the building as it is today.
The Free School building built in 1642
It seems Jane Leeson was a woman with a very kind heart as this article makes clear
So going off at a tangent for a moment, we parked up by the Church and as we got out of the car were met by a friendly greyhound who seemed to be having an early afternoon wander, we tried to entice the dog over to see if we could find out where he had come from and as we did a gentleman came out from behind his garden gate and said "I have been looking for her".
We got chatting to him and told him about the reason for our visit and he said he knew nothing about the silk weaving but that the landlord of the local Pub would probably know more and that the pub had a board inside with some village history recorded on it.
There was indeed a board that recorded all the Landlords over many years but I couldn't get a decent photo, We had a chat to the landlord who was a friendly sort but he to didn't know about the weaving he did however mention the Stocking Frame Pub and mentioned it had been closed since probably around the 1950's.
The existing village pub is called The New Inn has has a great specials board which we intend to try soon as I am hungering for the steamed steak and kidney pudding. If I was ever asked what I would like as my last meal on earth, that would be it. :)
The gentleman who owned the dog told us that the cottages on the right (red brick) in the picture below were originally built for people working in the shoe making industry, The building on the left looks as if it may have been built around the same time as the free school.
The picture below the cottages is something we saw on the way to the pub, shoe making or references to it are never far from you in Northants.
Off to the Church seen below -
Now as I've admitted many times before I'm not religious in any sense of the word, but when you see a stained glass window you can only marvel at the beauty and work that goes into creating such a thing of beauty.
If I did follow a religion it would be Buddhism, which seems to me to make sense but lets not go down the religion discussion route, it seems to lead to lots of bad things.
To many people the picture above is typical of villages to be found all over a UK, a quiet scene, thatched roofs, lovely old stone, the scent of mown grass and the soft cooing of pigeons in the trees.
However don't be fooled by this tranquil ideal, village life can be fraught with its own problems, the dynamics between its residents, the petty jealousies, tittle tattle, I was reminded of this last night by a friend who runs a village pub, and some of the things she told me bought home how small minded and petty some people can be be, and I say some as I wouldn't want to tar everyone with the same brush. To give you an idea she related the story of a local resident who had seen on their CCTV a passing dog walker whose pet (we'll call him Fido) had been violently sick on the pavement outside their property, but hadn't attempted to clean it up.
Incandescent with rage and in an attempt to shame the offender the householder had posted a picture of said dog and owner (we assume) up on social media, so beware you too could end up on the internet for all the wrong reasons.
I suppose when it comes down to it a village is just a microcosm of wider society (and sometimes I think doing O Level Sociology back in the day influences my thought processes too much) :),