Ted Rayson Remembers
Interviewed in 2013
I was born in Grantham and it was in a little street just off the main area called Grantley Street.
We actually lived very close to Marcos which was the ammunition and gun factory. My father worked on the railways there and because of the imminence of war, he decided to move us out of the Grantham area, away from that factory, out into the Vale of Belvoir. So we went to Sutton-cum-Granby. That’s where I started school, at the Granby School and I used to go up on my little three-wheeler bike to get to it. While we were there, my father used to come on his motorbike from Grantham, out into the Vale of Belvoir where we lived, and on one particular day he didn’t return. He had been killed in a road accident at Sedgebrook. So that changed things considerably.
My mother was looking after three youngsters – three lads on her own, so she had find a way round it, so we then moved in 1942 to Chapel Street in Bottesford to live with my grandparents. W H Greaves had a cycle repair business down by the side of the church. It was an old wooden hut and he used to repair cycles there and sell a few new ones, as well, opposite Bill Roberts’ orchard. There is a bungalow there now, which was Ken Greasley’s. At the back of it was a large orchard, so we used to have a lot of fun in there. It was privately owned and it linked up with Marsh’s Farm at the back.
A lot has changed in Chapel Street. The Wesleyan Chapel was in use then, which was literally across the road from where we lived. There were metal railings along the front of this chapel wall. I still remember that during wartime, because they needed steel, they came along and they cut those rails off. They’ve now put a footpath along one side of the street. Further down was the bakery where my mum worked in the shop, where Tom Simpson and family lived. She also used to go out on deliveries with the bakers. We used to play with the Simpson’s kids and thoroughly enjoyed it.
A t the back of our house we had outside toilets. You went in the door and on your right hand side was a double hole so you could sit side by side. They had some beautiful blue porcelain and you could read the bits of newspapers that you were going use later. The night soil men used to come quite early every week and collect the bowls from the bottom.
T ap water was unknown at the time. Going further up the yard at Retford Cottages was an outdoor pump was from a very nice spring, right below. In the winter we used to carry a kettle of boiling water to get rid of the ice to be able to pump it out. We used to carry every drop of water we needed from that pump. It really was lovely water. The springs there really are quite something. Of course when the mains taps came that was a revolution.
We had gas lighting then, but when my uncle came back from the war he became an electrician in the village and we must have been one of the first to have electric mains on. I still remember he used the old gas pipes to feed the wires through. To have electricity in the house, it was like having a water tap in the house, it was unheard of at the time. It was really special having services to your house.
I know gas had been going a long while before, because Bottesford had its own gas works. The gas works were where the print works is now, just below the level crossing. We had a gas lamp at the head of Queen Street and Reuben Jackson used to come round quite regularly putting new mantles in. Gas mantles were so delicate that if you just caught your finger on one, you had to put a new one on. You used to have them in little cardboard boxes and take them out so carefully.
Because my mum worked at the bakers we were never short of bread. One particular thing we used to like doing was to go around with John and the family to the back of the bakers when they weren’t working and we’d have a forage around with the sweet milk and the cocoa to make up our own sweets, which was rather fun.
There was a corner shop opposite in Chapel Street, F.A. Winn. They sold anything from food and clothing, to curtains and that sort of thing. It was just a little village shop and it was always busy. We used to be across there quite regularly. On the opposite corner was where Mrs Dyer had her shop and that was always a busy little shop too, not so much food, I think it was more sort of knickknacks and things. Then on the corner nearer to the main street of Queen Street, there used to be an old wooden chip shop and that’s where Brian Silverwood’s family lived, Mrs Logg. We used to go across there for our fish and chips.
There were two butchers, one on the High Street, Miller’s, and Taylor’s by the cross. They have been there very many years, as long as I remember. There were several shops round the cross.
#pic9 There was Deacon’s, the Hairdressers, Moulsher’s, next to The Bull and a little further up, back on Market Street, a. white building, I think they call it the White House still, and that’s where my uncle had an electrical shop. Motor repairs and things like that . So you know we were quite well off for shops.
Where we lived at Sutton-cum-Granby at the bottom of the garden was one of these huge military search lights. So that was the beginning of the war from our point of view and when we moved to Bottesford it was more peaceful, although only 7 miles from Grantham where they were making munitions and things.
I don’t remember Normanton airfield being bombed. It was a very busy airfield. We had the Americans as well. We used to go and sit up on the level crossing waiting for the American lories to come past. We would sit there on the fence and when they drew up and had to wait for the trains to come through, we always shouted to the guys in the back of the truck, ‘Got any gum, chum?’ And invariably we managed to get the odd few packets, and sometimes we even got little pieces of the Perspex off damaged aircraft and things like that.
I don’t remember having any sort of air raid warning. The only bomb that finally came was one that caught the end of the church probably in the last few days of the war. We didn’t actually suffer any bombing on the village.
I have some ration books upstairs. What we particularly noticed about rationing were sweets and things. I think with the butchers we were quite well set up. I remember before we lost my father, he used to sometimes come home with rabbits because he would carry a catapult on the train and at the side of the track there were quite a lot of rabbits and he knew where to find them. So we were never short of good food and with my mother working in the bakery afterwards our three lads were very well looked after. We did quite well really. We were very lucky.
Now the Belvoir Coffee House which became the youth club was quite a useful area.
I don’t know how it originated as a coffee house. It belonged, I think, to the Duke of Rutland and eventually the Leicestershire Education Authority took over interest in it. It was like a men’s club and a boy’s club, which eventually became the youth club. Bill Roberts was involved in the alterations inside because Bill was also on the Youth Club Committee. I became Youth Club Secretary and we had quite a good group of lads around there. We had good facilities. It wasn’t just the boys. It was for the girls, too, mainly teenagers. We had a very good snooker table there. We had table tennis. They had areas where they could dance. And later on when I started up with a band we used to practice one of the rooms upstairs. So it was a very busy little place.
We had the Boy Scouts and the Cubs. They were originally set up in one of the buildings at the side of the Rectory. They had some buildings which were for coaches and horses. They’ve all gone now of course. But they were quite big rooms and we had very successful scouting from there too. Mr Stokes and Mr McCartney from Easthorpe used to run it. We went up to Belvoir sometimes and we went up to the large Jamboree on one occasion up at Belvoir Castle.
We went to play with the Norris’s, the funeral directors, on the High Street. It was like part of a builder’s yard. They kept chickens. We used to go and play in the chicken huts. We played with the Norris family for a very long while. During the summer holidays from school the sun always seemed to be shining. Something we often did was to go across the Three Arch Bridge and play across the river and build dens. So we had plenty to occupy ourselves.
The only swimming was done near the Mill Dam. That was just off Easthorpe Road. The Mill Dam was quite a good area for swimming. I personally didn’t swim. But one of my brothers did. We never had swimming lessons. Well it wasn’t a standard part of education and I think it should be. Every child needs confidence where water is concerned
We used to go roaming on the village dump, we found an old hip bath and we took that down to the river and sailed it down the river. We put metal drums at the side of it. We used to stash it away on the bank under some bushes at night and we came back one day and put it on the water and found somebody had punched holes in the bottom of it. So we stood there on the water gradually sinking so there was a mad scramble for the bank.
The police station in Queen Street was still functioning as a police station when Sergeant Bradshaw was there and then Sergeant Wright, a proper police station, fully manned, unlike most police stations today. Of course the policeman was always looked up to. People were very careful about what they did around Bottesford and the criminal element really knew where they stood. In a smaller village you tend to know the people and the rough element too. We had one or two of those.
So I went to school in Bottesford in the old school building.
We started with Miss Walker and Miss Ford in what is now the Fuller Rooms. Miss Ford used to live on Albert Street. We used to have to sit at our little desks with lids and inkwells. We never had slates. We still had conventional pen and paper although they were pens with nibs. Biros were a revolution when they came in. Most of them were double desks with those hard back seats, but I have wonderful memories of there. Those two ladies were really a good foundation I think for most youngsters in the village. We had a third of a pint of milk every day.
From there you’d move to the next one which was Mrs Ogden’s and there was Mr Stimpson, in the main room where the youth club is now. It was divided by huge folding door that went right up to the ceiling to divide off the classes. I think learning parrot fashion, probably in the first couple of years, suits that age group, but as you get older, I think the reading and writing and then being tested is more successful. We felt the teachers were quite strict. So much so that if you were really bad, you would go to Mr Cox’s office, before it was Mr Dewey’s, and you could get the cane. Corporal punishment was part of education and people knew how far they could go and if they went beyond the boundary they expected to get the cane. I still think that would be a good thing. You could get six of the best. But some people only got just one or two.
I did actually photograph some of the bypass.
I wasn’t really much involved because around that time I was moving to Bingham. There were some aerial pictures of the bypass taken by George Norris because he used a microlight. The bypass itself I think was an essential part of getting heavy lories off the village streets. Obviously some still go through to Normanton. The main street is busy now, busier than I’ve ever known it, people park both sides.
Cars were unusual then. You could walk down the village streets and you could play football in the middle. You couldn’t do that, especially on Queen Street, now. Queen Street’s solid both sides, isn’t it? A lot of the houses were built without garages. In those days of course a garage wasn’t necessary. So that’s the reason for all the on-street parking. Buses were an absolute essential then. Of course, until the middle of the‘50s, not many people had a car.
When the new school was built, Bill Roberts asked me to take some photographs around the area. So I photographed the field – I have a whole series of pictures right through to the last day of being finished. Aerial pictures as well. So when that school was developed they actually asked for a complete set of those pictures to be shown when they do the new opening. They can be viewed on the school website. The new building means the children are not going to have to travel out to Melton or somewhere, which is great.
I remember the Rectory being sold , in fact I have some good photographs of the buildings being knocked down. Before they started to build on the new area, we used to hold all the church events on the Rectory lawn. That was a beautiful lawn with the big cedar tree at the back. When they said they were going to start to build around it, I felt very disappointed that it was going. But of course a building development for the older generation I think is a good thing to be encouraged. It just seems when we look back at those times that the village has lost one of its good locations for social events.
They still have quite a large lawn there right down to the river. I love the Rectory because I went to Scouts there, in the old coach house. Then at a later date I was in the village choir, the church choir. So it did mean quite a lot to me. I’m just pleased that they’ve developed the village hall area more. That really is a good centre for the village now.
The original hut came from another area, not from Bottesford. It was only a temporary building but of course it lasted many years. Then being wood, they reinforced it with bricks after a while, before they totally replaced it. The field has been there as long as I remember. It was always a pleasure to go and play football on. The house at the side there, The Elms, was Dr Rankin’s, on that long drive next to the cricket field. If you wanted to go to the doctors, you had to go up there. I think there was another Doctor but I’m not sure where. But he was certainly the guy you went to if you wanted to get any medical attention.
I think the village had to be self-sufficient as did most villages then and that’s something that we’ve lost in the last 30/40 years, which is sad because if you have a self-sufficient village you have the local farming community to feed you. You have trades, like your man who can repair your boots, you can have electricians, you can have butchers, bakers, the whole lot, all within the village. So if everything else fell apart you could still survive.
When we came to the 11+ you sat it on one day and that was the deciding factor. I think there was a class of about 30 which was where the youth club is now and I still remember when they came to give out the results for the going to the Grammar School because that in those days was rather like going to university, it was a rare occurrence. We felt very privileged to be able to do that. In that class of 30 there were only 4. The curious thing was that we were sitting in desks of pairs, two boys and two girls sitting in the next desks, myself and Peter Handley, Janet Jackson and Audrey Wright from Normanton. We went to Melton on the Reliance buses from Grantham which used to pick us up at the cross at about 8 o’clock every morning. The rest of the children went through to Mr Stimpson’s class.
The first job I had was in Nottingham city centre, in Clumber Street, a little photo studio. I think about a third of what I earned used to go on rail fares.
I was there for a couple of years, then I worked in Grantham, using the railways again, on St Peter’s Hill at Walter Lee Photographers. That’s where I learned most of my serious photographic work. It was really an apprentice style of education. When he retired, I’d already learnt a certain amount of studio work, dark room and processing, wedding photographs, that sort of thing, and then John Mackay bought the business from him, so I worked with John Mackay for a little while and then I went back to Nottingham to work in photo retail, in a camera shop. I worked on Pelham Street then. I was still living in Bottesford, so it was quite a long trek every day and of course we didn’t finish work until 6 o’clock at night. It was quite a good service on the train, though. Better than we get in Bingham now, far better. The train service was heavily used and of course it was quite handy from where I worked to, being city centre.
I was around 20 odd years, I suppose, working in city centre. And then I went out on selling services on the road for a couple of years, then went back into photography and finally, the last 26 years before I retired I worked in engineering which was a total change of work. I got into that because one of the directors of this particular company had been one of my customers where I worked in the city centre in photography and he rang me up quite out of the blue and said we’ve got a new job coming up looking after the Purchasing Department in our factory. So I went along for the interview and after they said ‘when can you start?’ So that satisfied me enormously because I’d almost doubled my wages. I stayed there 26 years. In the end I was the Purchasing Manager for the company and I was spending in the region of probably £1½ million a year for them.
So it was quite a change. But during that time I still did a lot of photography. It was still a hobby and a pleasure. It also helped to earn a little bit of cash to pay for holidays and things. If you’ve got a hobby that also is able to produce something to pay for itself, that’s good.
I used to have a dark room at Bottesford right in the top of the building and I also had a dark room here at Bingham. In fact the little bedroom we still call the dark room, because I used to have an old wash bench with a marble top so it didn’t matter if the chemicals splashed on it. I blacked out the window, that was very successful.
Of course, with the advent of colour and digital photography things changed and I moved away from black and white photography into full colour. In the last sort of eight or nine years, I’ve gone onto digital and that has made a total revolution. It’s a lot less work actually. The technique for photography still exists and the way that you view an image, make sure the lightings right, get all your perspective and your composition right. The rest is a matter of mechanical recording. When it was with film you had a lot of work to do after that to transfer it into a print.
Now of course, you can take the card out of your digital camera, plug it in your printer and produce very high quality prints that give me satisfaction. Going back about seven or eight years the quality wasn’t really good enough to match films. Now of course, it’s gone way beyond that. So I can produce pictures that you just can’t tell whether they’re film or digital. I still like black and white, I still take some.
Examples of that are like the portrait of the young lady here with the fox cub. That to me in colour wouldn’t have had the same impact.
The old street scenes of Bottesford are very beautiful to look at, aren’t they, in black and white. They convey a lot of atmosphere.
There are very, very few motors around. In fact when you look along Queen Street there’s only one car there. I chose the time of day very carefully because on buildings it’s important to get the right sort of surface light on the bricks and the stones. So when you live somewhere you can judge the different time of day. Of course somewhere like Butcher Row there, faced north so you wouldn’t get any light on the front of it, very many days of the year. So that had to be carefully chosen and it worked.
Otley’s shop is there, of course, on the left. That was a lovely little shop. You could walk in there, up the steps and straight in front of you was a clear space with a counter on your left, a very long counter with a row of upturned biscuit tins on the front. You could select how many biscuits you wanted from each sort. It was very good. He had a petrol pump at the side of it, which you can see there on my photo.