The Alresford Dray man…..

Len Strong from Derbyshire sends this story from his early days in Alresford, where he was born in 1925.

Len writes: “Gran & Grandad White, my Mums parents, lived in one of the oldest houses in Alresford. The middle one of a row of flintstone and brick cottages on Tanyard Hill, now called Mill Hill. [Editor’s note: This is the second cottage on the left, just after the open garden space and fireplace down Mill Hill, on the left, having entered from the bottom of Broad Street]. It had no bathroom or toilet facilities. In the back place was a well from which they had to draw water, and the ‘privey’ as Granddad called it, was a bucket lavatory half-way up the garden.

What it did have was a big cellar under the front room which was reputedly used to house French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars, but as I remember, I was always scared to go down there as it was a haven for spiders and their webs hung down from the ceiling. However, granddad kept pigs up the garden and there was always a side of bacon hanging in the cellar, and a supply of coal and firewood which the merchants used to tip into the cellar from a chute protected by an iron grill at street level.

My earliest memories are of sitting on granddad’s knee and eating ‘soldiers’ of toast dipped in a boiled egg, and of Gran in her long black dress protected by a starched white apron, busy preparing a meal at the scrubbed bare wooden table in the kitchen.

Grandad worked as a dray-man for Amey’s brewery situated in Broad Street. He had two big Shire mares which, when harnessed to the dray, he delivered barrels of beer to the outlying village pubs. And now and then he would take me with him. I used to love sitting beside him and listening to the clip-clop of the horses hooves as they trotted along the country roads.

At each pub Grandad would roll the required number of barrels off and trundle them into the bar. His reward was always a glass of ale from the landlords so by the end of the day he would be feeling quite ‘mellow’.

He would say to me,” Get in the back “, then he would join me, lie down and cover us over with a blanket, and give the horses the order, “Home girls”, and they would do just that. Trot back the four or five miles to the stable yard, while grandad had forty winks during the journey. He would feed and water them and then say, “Come on, we’ll go and have our tea, then I’ll come back and take off their nose-bags and put them to bed, and then it will be your bed-time too young feller!!”

Those were “Happy days”, as seen by Len.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Valery Hollier on October 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    wonderful ‘write-up’ regarding the life and times in my favourite place ALRESFORD, we take things so much for granted today, we can go to the tap in the kitchen for water, not have to walk to the well. thank you Len for your interesting look back on times gone by.

    Reply

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