The motoring world in the 1920-1930s was still in its infancy – to me it was not unusual to see a Sentinel lorry parked by the ford, near the church, on the Normanton Road. This vehicle was driven by a steam engine, and naturally required a constant supply of water. It was a· strong and powerful machine, capable of carrying heavy loads, but being coal fired it was a dirty contraption. Progress and development during these years was to change our way of life.
There were relatively few owners of motor driven vehicles in our village during the 1920s, and by today’s standards one could say their design and construction was agricultural: many wheels had solid tyres and wooden spokes. Some lorries, and the titled ‘Brook Bond’ tea delivery van, manufactured by Trojan, with its familiar engine exhaust – ‘Put-Put-Put!’ sound, still had, I believe, a chain drive to the rear wheels. Brakes were rod or cable operated on rear wheels only. Nothing stood in the way of progress during the 1930s. Production standards improved, and the law dictated that four-wheel brakes were fitted. Pneumatic tyres became standard, and the 30 mph Urban Zone introduced. For us children, it was still safe to play on minor roads, as many motorists – giving a blast on their horn or hand operated ‘Claxton’ – soon cleared the way, and we all lived in harmony.
We all attended the Bottesford Primary School: the school bell would sound twice, and on the second sound we were expected to be in lines, ready to go to class. No school dinners in our days, and no cars waiting to take you home. Once home, you changed your clothes and shoes, and the world was yours to enjoy.
In the late 1930s, some, in full-time employment, were able to consolidate their new found wealth and purchase a new or second-hand vehicle. One of my uncles had an Austin 7 car, another a new Hudson belt drive motorcycle – yes, times were getting better for some. In 1939, I acquired my own first motorised transport, a 98cc James Auto-cycle, Reg: TL 9236. I believe it was £12 new! Its maximum speed was 30mph – 80-90 miles to the gallon. As an auto-cycle, if you ran out of petrol, you just pedaled it home – great fun!
In 1935, Mr Walter Cox the school Head Teacher, purchased a new ultra-modern Citroen French car. This model was to become very popular with the French and German police during World War 2. One of the schoolteachers, Mr P H Stimpson, on the other hand, purchased a new Y Model Ford Popular. It was originally priced at £120, but production efficiencies meant the 1935 two-door model became the first fully equipped car to sell for £100. The Y Model took the British market by storm, denting the sales of UK manufacturers, Austin, Morris, Singer and Hillman. It was in production in England from 1932 until 1937.
A good bus service was established between Grantham and Nottingham, and ‘charabancs’, which were long open coaches with transverse seats, were used for excursions, and often seen outside Bottesford Church. Sadly, the horse and landau for Mr Singleton of Bottesford was now doomed as we entered a new era in transport.
My family home was the larger of the two houses next to the church and ford on the Normanton Road. It is a three-storey house, built in 1723, that had been a thatch dwelling until the turn the last century. Its location had its advantages, as with the advent of the motorcar, the river ford was classified as a natural disaster area. Those who drove too fast through the ford often stalled their car due to the poor protection to the electrical system. My brother (William Waudby) and I, being an enterprising couple, would often offer assistance by pushing the vehicle out of the stream – of course, that was only after a short negotiating period and a usual fee of one old penny (each 1d): Two old pennies would equal a good 1/4 1b of good quality sweets then!
Petrol could be purchased at Mr Hart’s shop and garage opposite the Rutland Public House: hand operated petrol pumps supplied your needs of ESSO, 1 shilling and ROP (Russian Oil Petrol) at 11 1/2 d per gallon. The best ‘Players’ cigarettes – 10 for 6d, 20 for 11 1/2 d. In Grantham, a good quality, made -to – measure three – piece suit at Hepworths or Weaver to Wearer cost only £1.10 shillings.
In 1937, a Mr Tinkler – who was married to Dot Samuel and lived near the Post Office – purchased a new Ford V-type car that cost £100. A Mr Leslie Lightfoot, who lived at ‘Holmcroft’ in the West End of the village, purchased a new Morris 8 car costing £110. Wisely, the Ford Motor Company had reduced their price at that year’s London Motor Show, so won the day. (Before decimalisation, £1 = 20 shillings or 240 pennies.)
The average wage in 1937 of a fully qualified local factory worker aged 21 years was equivalent to £1.15s.0d per week. I, as a 14-year-old errand boy working in the same factory Drawing Office received 37p (7s.2d) per week for working a 50 hour week. I also had to cycle 14 miles each day to work, 6 days a week! Ah well, still here to ask ‘are we more content today?’
George Henry Waudby 20 March 2009