we are grateful to Grenville Bird for his 2nd instalment of his childhood memories of Henham
As well as the many shops in the village, Henham was well-served by travelling salesmen. Green’s department store at Stansted delivered grocery each week. Their representative, Chris Brown, brought the grocery then took the list of requirements for the following week’s order. I have already mentioned the Somerlitevan which came round with paraffin. The van had open sides on which were displayed pots and pans and other household requirements.
By the time I first went to Henham the local bakery had closed, and bread and cakes were delivered by Mr Saunders whose bakery was at Robin Hood Road, Elsenham.
Newspapers were delivered from W.H. Smith’s bookstall on Stansted station by an old school friend of my mother, Ellie Camp, who cycled round in all weathers without complaint. But the most colourful deliverer of newspapers was Mr Hickinbottom from Chaureth Green. The villagers called him Moses because his hair was so long, and he came round in a pony and trap, but it was often mid-day before he made his deliveries by which time the news was stale !
Because there was no electricity in Henham, ice cream couldn’t be sold in the village shops, but I do remember in the summer of 1939 a man coming round on a motor bike and sidecar selling it, and I remember sitting on the front lawn at Henleys waiting for him to honk his motor cycle horn letting us know he had arrived, and my grandmother went out with a bowl to collect the ice cream.
Coal was delivered to Henleys by Elijah Barltrop whose coal yard was at Sibleys station. A couple of coal trucks were left in the goods yard at Elsenham, then collected by the daily Thaxted branch goods train and hauled to Sibleys from where Elijah delivered his coal.
One particular story of a travelling salesman sticks in my mind. My grandfather’s widowed sister-in-law, Edie Bentley, lived with her brother Wally Johnson, in a cottage on Starr Green then known as The Nook but since completely rebuilt andrenamed. An unscrupulous man came round Henham taking orders for false teeth. Edie Bentley and Wally Johnson each ordered and paid for a pair. When the teeth arrived by post they were found to be made of cement and unwearable. I can hear Mum’s Aunt Tids Neville now, saying ‘B—-y fools’, which was an expression she always used when someone had done something foolish.
After Mr Morrish died in 1947 my grandmother moved from Henham to come to live with her daughter in Stortford, and Henleys was sold to Charlie and Rose Salmon. I didn’t visit Henleys again until a few years ago when I was kindly invited by Mrs Wilson to look over the house which for me holds many happy memories. I was pleased to see that the pump was still standing in the back yard, though no longer in use. As a little boy I used to look forward to going with grandmother to pump the buckets of water. The pump at Henleys was one of the few wells and pumps which didn’t run dry in the great drought of 1921, when water had to be brought to the village by cart, and villagers queued for their buckets of water.
My grandfather and his brother, Alf Neville, had ‘green fingers’. They gathered wild rose briars from the hedgerows, propagated them and produced garden roses which they sold to Cant’s Nurseries at Colchester. They were able to produce a bush which bore two different varieties of rose. I well recall seeing one in the garden at Henleys. I also recall seeing in the garden at Henleys, a tree , one side of which grew apples and the other side pears.
After my grandmother left I still continued to visit Henham frequently to see my grandmother’s sister, Tids Neville, at the Bell Cottage (then un-named) opposite Henleys. Before the First World War a lady in Henham was a ‘billeting agent’ for Doctor Barnado’s Home. Several Henham families fostered boys and girls from the Home for which they were paid a few shillings a week. Aunt Tids always fostered girls and several were billeted with her over the years. But two girls, Ada Brain and Mary Gornell, after going back to the Home at Barkingside for training, returned to Henham to live with their foster mother. Mary married and went to live at Birchanger but visited her mother each week; Ada remained a spinster andlooked after her mother until she died in 1964. It would be hard to find a person more loyal than Ada; she had a heart of gold.
During my visits to Aunt Tids I heard lots of stories about early-20th century-life in Henham. It would appear that elections were more exciting than they are today in the age of television politics. The electors of Henham had to go to the polling station in Stansted to cast their vote. At the election in January 1910, one of the Liberal farmers took his men in a big farm wagon decorated with yellow ribbons for the occasion; on the way back the wagon stopped at the Crown in Elsenham, and the farmer took his men inside to treat them to a drink. Alf Neville andsome of his burly fairground mates who were not of the same political persuasion, waylaid the wagon, unharnessed the horses and overturned it. Saffron Walden was about to provide one of the surprise results of the election. It had been a Liberal stronghold and was the seat of their Chief Whip John Pease. He was defeated by 272 votes.