The Thurlows

Village News & Information

Village craftsmen and businesses

Little Thurlow was a busy village with its craftsmen. Starting along Church Road, next to Town House in the corner of the allotments, there was a workshop occupied by Fred Wright, a cabinet-maker and furniture-restorer. He was a fine craftsman and some of his work can be seen in St Peter’s Church.

Next along the road at "Brookside" was the builder and undertaker, Mr E.J. (Dick) Sargent, who employed several men and built houses in the village, mainly in Lt Thurlow and up at the Green. Further along, at the junction behind where the bus shelter now is, was the wheelwright’s shop. This was owned by Alf Houchen and his two sons, Syd and Norman, worked with him. They repaired and built new wagons, tumbrels and carts and also made ladders. Planks of wood were sawn over a saw-pit. This was hard work, using a cross cut hand saw, with one of the men in the pit and the other on top.

I was friends with Dennis and Jimmy Houchen, whose fathers were doing this work, and I spent many hours watching them at it.

Next door was the blacksmith’s shop. He was always busy with shoeing the carthorses and hunters, repairing and sharpening harrows, and making the iron rims for the wagon and tumbrel wheels which came from the wheelwright’s next door. These tyres were burnt on to the wheels, using a flat metal plate the same size as the wheels with a large hole in the centre to take the hub. When the metal rim was firmly in place it was cooled off using a watering can.

Moving up the village, Hales shop stood on the corner of Temple End Road. This was a general store and small bakery. H.A., as he was known, was helped by his son Fred, and they specialised in making milk bread. I think they used to bake three times a week. Fred used to deliver on his tradesman’s cycle, cycling to Haverhill with some of his orders. He was a keen racing cyclist, being a member of Haverhill Wheelers Cycling Club, and was the fastest delivery man around!

Opposite to the shop is Manor Farm, which was farmed by Mr Spencer Tilbrook, who lived in the farmhouse with his three sisters. The farmyard was always kept neat and tidy. Several men were employed on the farm, and the land went up to Temple End. Mr Tilbrook owned a threshing tackle, which went round to a lot of farms on contract work. Several horses were kept, and it was a nice sight to see them come home in the afternoons, being unharnessed and going into the pond in the farmyard for a drink.

Next up the street was the harness and saddle makers’ shop, 123a, which was run by Edgar Baynes, who was also helped in the afternoons by his brother Billy, after he had finished his postal deliveries.

The village Post Office was next door at 122a and was run by Alec and Bessie Sadler. We used to buy sherbets and liquorice pipes and laces from them. Alec used to cycle to Withersfield to pick up the mail and parcels each morning, often having to walk when the roads were snowbound during the winter.

At The Cock Inn Mr John Rowlinson ran his contractor’s business and also did car hire, since there were very few cars in the village at this time. Mrs Rowlinson helped to run the public house. Mr Rowlinson did contract work for the County Council, using lorries and also horses and carts. His sons, Sid and Harold, drove the lorries and in the winter would also clear the snow from the roads, towing a snow plough behind one of the lorries and gritting the roads with sand. There was a roadman’s hut in the Square, where Pat Alexander and Harry Pearson worked from, keeping the village clean and tidy and trimming the grass verges with a hook. Further along the Street was the bakery owned by Mr Charles Rutter. He employed three men: Reg Smith, Vic Marsh and Len Webb (who sadly lost his life whilst serving in the Army during the Italian campaign).

Two vans were used for the deliveries, both Morris Cowleys, one green and the other grey. Several villages were supplied, including the Risbridge Home at Kedington. Opposite was the cobblers shop.

At the end of the lane was the yard of Mr Will Hayward, who did watch repairs, ran a car hire service, and also had a small joinery shop, where he was helped by his son Orris. I used to go and watch Orris at work; I remember he used a lathe, converted from a treadle Singer sewing machine.

Going into Gt Thurlow, Mr Frank Haylock was landlord at The Queen’s Head public house, helped by his wife Florrie, and he also had a harness and saddler’s shop. Opposite at Red House was the butcher’s shop of Les Rising, who had taken over from Pryke’s. Further along was the grocery and general store of Miss Gussie Dowsett. This shop stocked almost everything. Outside stood the hand-operated Esso petrol pump, and a cigarette machine, which held Woodbines in packets of five. Miss Grace Page worked in the shop as well. On the corner stood The Rose and Crown public house, where Mr Tilbrook was the landlord, and there was also a clubroom where concerts and functions were held.

The traditional Meet of the Newmarket and Thurlow foxhounds on Boxing Day was held at The Crown. This attracted a large crowd from the local villages, and was a popular meeting-place for a chat and a drink.

Further back from the hill is the War Memorial, with the names of the men who lost their lives during the Wars. The memorial was flanked by two machine guns. The memorial to the men of Lt Thurlow who died is in St Peter’s Church. The Reading Room stands further back, with the village clock, Lady Astor, and the men of the village used to meet here in the evenings to play billiards and darts. When we were out in the fields or playing out, we would listen for the clock to strike to know when it was time to go home. The girls of the village had their own social organisation, the GFS (Girls’ Friendly Society), which met at Mrs Ryder’s.

Going up Dowsett’s hill at 104 was the Police House, where the policeman was PC Steed. At the top of the hill was the blacksmith’s shop of Mr Sam Last. On the road to Withersfield, next to the Rectory, was the Mill, where the miller was Mr Collis. Coming back down the hill along the Wratting Road was the foundry where the repairs to the Estate implements and machinery were carried out. The engineers were Mr George French, Mr Syd Chapman and Mr Herbert Arnold. Back down the Crown Hill was Wheatsheaf House, the home of Mr Sam Webb, a builder who used a horse and cart for his work. His son, Billy, worked with him.

Opposite lived Bill Tweed, who was a joiner. Mrs Tweed was a district nurse. Bill owned a motorcycle and sidecar made of wicker. Opposite the Church was the farm of Mr Tulloch, who was helped by his three sons. Next to Church Farm was the fire engine shed where the Estate manual fire engine was kept. Along the Hog Yard was the Estate carpenters shop, the sawmill, wheelwright’s shop, painter’s shop and the barn. Mr Womack, Mr Sammy Edmunds, Mr Paxman and Mr Reg Taylor all worked there. (Reg, who is now in his 90s, lives quite close to me).

Mr George Senior, the Estate manager, was a familiar figure, often riding through the village on horseback. A Ruston engine provided power for the sawmill and the grinding mills in the Barn. You could always tell the time by this engine, as it was shut down at five minutes to one o’clock each day it was working.

The Rector of All Saints Church was Reverend Basil le Fleming, and the Rector of St Peter’s, Little Thurlow was the Reverend Charles Rogers. There was also the Congregational Chapel, which is now Homeview. The preachers came from neighbouring villages and the services were held on Sunday afternoons.

Up at Little Thurlow Green, which was a small hamlet then, was The Red Lion public house, which was kept by George and Ethel Mills.

Several visiting tradesmen served the village: four butchers, two bakers, one greengrocer and fishmonger, a milkman and two coal merchants. Some people bought their milk from the dairy at the Hall or from Manor Farm, Little Thurlow and the milk was collected in enamel cans.

There was a general storekeeper, the forerunner of the mobile shop, a Mr Foreman who came from Cowlinge. He was a smart man and always wore breeches and buskins, which were highly polished. His van was painted blue and divided into lots of compartments, with several doors either side of the van. He sold vinegar from a barrel carried on one side of the van, and paraffin oil from a tank fixed to the back of the van.

There was also another oil-man called ‘Curly’, who drove the Somerlite van that came from Cambridge.

Mr Ezra Nunn, who had a shop at the bottom of Turnpike Hill, Withersfield, delivered newspapers. He used to come on a bicycle and later he had a car, an Austin 7 Ruby.

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