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This story was compiled and written by Neville Sumpter and is reproduced here with his kind permission.
All images are copyright of Neville Sumpter

My Evacuation to Burton Latimer
Part II: Home Life and Return

Family photograph in the garden at Station Road. Neville is pictured top right.
Neville and family in the garden at 70 Station Road.
L-R standing: Aunt Avis, Mother, Grandma, Great-Aunt Avis,
Neville, cousin Angela. Cousin Pamela in the front.


I spent at least two Christmases in BL and I remember snow being on the ground for one of them. The district nurse Agnes Brooks was a kind soul but very much feared by young children. She always had black Labrador dogs and used to go around the village on a bicycle. Just before Christmas she used to give parties for the children and I recall going to one and then being taken back to my grandparents afterwards by some older children.

Once my grandma was ill and besides a visit from Dr Bell she also had a visit from an Irish nurse. I guess she was temporarily in BL helping out Nurse Brooks? My grandma had a picture of “The Last Supper” and she gave it to this Irish nurse because of course she was a Roman Catholic whilst we were all staunch “C of E”.

Our immediate neighbour at number 68 was a Mrs Ella Munday, we had nobody on the other side because we were the end house and next to that side was the drive leading to the Ideal Clothing Factory. For some reason unknown to me was that my grandparents did not like Mrs Munday and shunned her if they saw her out. My granddad also erected a high fence and trellis work so that she would not have been able to look into our garden!

Other nearby neighbours were Jack and Winnie Evans who lived opposite but a bit further down. Jack was from Burton Latimer but his wife Winnie came from Kendal in the Lake District. After Jack died Winnie moved in with her son Rodney and his wife Geraldine who live in Colchester and we went to see her a few times when she was alive. Almost opposite lived the Booth family with a daughter Phyllis who married Ralph Aveling who was one of the church wardens, I think. This was I believe towards the end of the war as Ralph was still in the army and married wearing his uniform. A bit further down Station Road on the same side as we lived was a large double fronted house and a Miss Campion lived there. I don't know anything about her but I believe she was considered to be fairly well off!

The two doctors were Dr's Kingsley and Bell , we used to have Dr Bell whilst my Aunt and Uncle who lived in Meeting Lane used the services of Dr Kingsley.

Home life

I used to be fond of “Children's' Hour” on the radio, of course there was no TV then and I remember hearing John Masefield's Box of Delights with Victor Healy-Hutchinson's Carol Symphony as the background music. My grandparents used to listen to the news and my grandma liked some of the newsreaders such as Frank Phillips but didn't like Stewart Hibbert as she thought he was very brusque. We also used to listen to “Workers'Playtime” coming from “A factory somewhere in the Midlands” for example, it was a variety show and all the famous stars of the day appeared on it. Once Izzy Bonn was announced and my granddad who never normally swore said “I bet he is a bloody Jew!”

1917 photograph of Neville's Grandparents, with granddad in his RNAS uniform.
Neville's Grandparents, 1917, with granddad in his
Royal Navy Air Service uniform

My granddad told me that in World War One he was continually getting call up papers but he did not want to go into the army and face the hell of the trenches. I think that the Military were coming to forcibly take him away to join but he went off on his own accord and joined the Royal Naval Air Service and spent most of his time in Norfolk at Pulham St Mary which was an airship station. He told me that one of the men in his group was Jewish but that he ate Pork and Bacon. He told my granddad “My old man would murder me if he knew I was eating this sort of stuff!”

Royal Naval Air Service at Pulham St Mary. Neville's grandad is pictured 7th from the left in the middle row.
Royal Naval Air Service at Pulham St Mary.
Neville's Granddad is in the middle row
7th from the left and four from the right
just counting the sitting men.

Photograph of Neville in the garden, showing the Ideal Clothing Factory next door.
Neville in the garden, with the
Ideal Clothing Factory behind
My great-Aunt (also Avis) and my granddad's sister used to live on the New road which went to Pytchley and she used to come and visit us from time to time as we did her. She was also rather a stern character but had a heart of gold and was always baking and cooking. One Christmas she came to stay and walked all the way with an old pram to carry her things in and she brought her cat who enjoyed a brief stay in Station Road. She went out into the garden and collected some snow in a bowl and put her feet in it. She said that it was good for chilblains and that if you did this it would stop you getting them.

Next to my grandparents' house was the Ideal Clothing factory and I used to chat to the girls when they came out and went to lunch. For a brief time my granddad took a job there as a cleaner and I remember he took me in with him one day to one of the workrooms and the floor was literally covered in cloth, cottons and old buttons.

My granddad's eldest brother Jack (really John) lived in Burton Latimer in a bungalow with his step (I think) daughter Alice and her husband Jack Grainger. We visited him from time to time and apart from my Aunt Avis (Senior) they were the only two relatives of my granddad I met. I think all the others had died off by then or else moved away and he had lost contact with them. My mother also had a cousin Len Loak who we saw on a few occasions but he may have been in the army during the war?

I had a three-wheeler bike and used to accompany my Granddad on his adult bike to his allotment in Station Road towards the Powell Lane junction. I also went with him to see his sister my great aunt and remember staying with her overnight. She had two evacuees for a time, one was called Marshall and they were from London but I don't recall the other's name. Also staying was John who was a distant cousin of mine on her husband's side so she had four young boys to contend with. I remember she gave us a bath in a zinc tub in front of the fire in the dining room. I recall John going first, then the two evacuees and finally me, all in the same water with some added to keep it warm!


I always enjoyed going to Kettering with granddad, sometimes we would go on market day and see the cattle etc. and then on to the ordinary market. He took Angela and myself to see the show “The Desert Song” and we were thrilled. I cannot recall the name of the theatre at that time but I believe formerly it was “The Savoy”? He also took us to see the film -”The Thief of Baghdad” - an Arabian Nights fantasy with June Dupre, Conrad Veidt, John Justin and Sabu. This was at the Odeon in Gold Street. Again this was wonderful for us and we were drawing and painting scenes from this and the Desert Song for weeks afterwards.

Talking of films I fondly remember going to “Burton Bughouse” as the Electric Palace was called. The first few rows were benches and cost all of 5 pence! I think some days they had two programmes and being a kid I always went to the first one. Favourite films were the Old Mother Riley series, we really thought “She” was a woman and the Hollywood epics with Maria Montez, Jon Hall and Sabu one of which was called “Cobra Woman”.

Burton Feast was something to be looked forward to and I loved all the rides on the fairground. There was also a small fair held in the Park near to where Nurse Brooks lived but I was disappointed in that there were no rides, just hoopla stalls, coconut shy etc.

From that Park I used to go on walks with my granddad and visit a derelict watermill on the river Ise which I always thought was haunted, we would then go to Isham and make our way back via the main road and railway station to home. Near that watermill was a wood locally know as “Ugs Ole” (Hogs Hole) and we really believed it was inhabited by wild boars and no way would we have ventured into it. Just on the road towards Isham on the right hand side was an encampment which we kids thought were gypsies. I think today they would be called travellers and we were scared to go past there without an adult accompanying us as we believed they would kidnap us and take us away with them!

Another walk we used to do was from Station Road passing near to the ironstone pits and crossing the branch line of the railway, no longer there, that used to go to Cranford, Raunds, Huntingdon and eventually Cambridge . I used to put halfpennies on the line and hoped that when the train ran over them it would enlarge them to pennies! We came out in Powell Lane opposite a house where one Tommy Ambler lived but I really do not know anything about him.

I also recall some sort of parade with a fancy dress competition, it may have been in conjunction with Burton Feast? I went in my Red Indian Costume complete with feathered headdress and Angela went as a squaw along with a specially painted totem pole that her father had made. I felt sure I would win a prize and was very disappointed it went to one of my school companions, a girl who dressed as a parrot and she carried the cage in her hand.

Around the streets

My grandma used to shop at the Co-op - a magnificent building which is now demolished. The Co-op Butchers was on the opposite site of the road on the corner of Pioneer Avenue . The building is still there but of course it is no longer a butcher's shop. My grandma became friendly with one of the assistants, Fred Goodman, who lived in Pioneer Avenue with his wife and young son Nigel. If anything extra came in he would put it aside for grandma as certain things were very scarce during the war. On the same side as the main Co-op building was a shop run by Alf Coles that used to sell records and sheet music. In those days of course it was only 78's and I remember them being displayed in the window. My auntie Avis used to go there and buy sheet music to play on her piano as she was quite an accomplished pianist. There was a Fish and Chip shop called Fletchers, I think, towards the bottom of Station Road near to Pateman’s shop but we never bought any there. My grandma was a big believer in home cooking and considered most food bought out in restaurants etc to be inferior. Sometimes my grandma would go to Denton 's farm where I believe they sold dairy produce?

The milkman Joe Farby used to call daily with his churns which were carried on a horse drawn vehicle. He used to come around the back door and fill up my grandma's jugs with fresh milk, no bottles in those days. Of course during WWII we were on summer time for most of the year except in the summer period we were on double summer time. Hence it was light until very late and dark in the mornings. I often recall going to school in the dark. Joe told us one day that when the clocks went forward, his poor horse had to get up an hour earlier and was very reluctant to do so.

My grandma used to give me six pence for a haircut at Cyril Swann's, I hated going and sometimes went alone and sometimes with my granddad. Either next door or near to the barber was a shop which I think could best be described as a stationer or bookshop. I know they sold children's books and I often begged six pence from my grandma to go and purchase one there.

Sometimes I would go over to my auntie Avis in Meeting Lane and she would give us money to go and buy “Spruce” as Lemonade and other such drinks were called. At the top of Meeting Lane was the “SHE” factory, I still do not know what “SHE” stood for but it was the brand name of the drinks. We would go over and choose various drinks such as Cherryade, Dandelion and Burdock, etc. Other times she gave us money to go to Pateman’s shop and choose an individual pot of paste for our tea. I remember Salmon and Shrimp being a particular favourite, also Beef.

We used to see a “Lady of the Road”. She was really a tramp and had a bright red nose, hence she was christened “Cherry Nose” by all the kids and they used to taunt her with the name and she used to threaten us, so we all ran off in fear.

In Station Road lived a lady and I think she was a “Miss Fox”. She was very smart for that time and wore furs, lipstick, nail varnish and make up. To my grandparents she was a reincarnation of Jezebel as they did not believe that women should wear lipstick and other make up. I think they considered her a “Scarlet Woman”!

Later on

Wellingborough and Rushden were also places we used to visit. To a child these seemed as remote as New York or Melbourne would be today. Again places like Raunds, Desborough, Market Harborough we also considered in the same light and as for Leicester it might as well have been on another planet!

Outing to Wicksteed Park. Seated are Neville, Angela and Pamela. Standing is Delia Wardle, a friend who lived next door to his aunty in Meeting Lane. Same excursion -Neville, Angela, Delia and Pamela wearing her "Siren Suit."
Photograph of the same excursion, with the children enjoying a ride on the swings.
Outing to Wicksteed Park

Top left: Seated are Neville, Angela and Pamela. Standing is Delia Wardle, a friend who was old enough to take us out.

Top right: Same excursion -Neville, Angela, Delia and Pamela wearing her "Siren Suit."

Bottom left: Time for a ride on the famous old swings. (Editor's note: Many people who visited the park in the 1950's and 1960's will remember the hand and foot operated swings and also the slide in the background - which would now be deemed too dangerous!).

Wicksteed Park was a big attraction to us and we loved all the slides, swings, roundabouts, etc, which were free. Also the miniature railway and the water chute but you had to pay to go on those. The ice cream was made from their own goat's milk and was delicious but I think it became unavailable as the war progressed.

I recall various military personal coming to the village, some Czech solders and some Americans but of course the Americans were much later and may have been after I returned to London but came back on a visit?

I think it must have been some time late in 1942 when it was considered safe to move back to London and I did just that. I was sorry to leave BL and the country but glad to be re-united with my Mum and Dad who needless to say came down to BL many times to visit me during my stay there.

In conclusion I can honestly say that my stay in Burton Latimer was perhaps the happiest time of my life. My grandparents spoiled me terribly as I was their only grandson. My grandma never once physically punished me but if I had been naughty she would make me go to bed for a time and somehow it worked and I nearly always behaved myself. My granddad was once doing some gardening and bending down to pick up a plant. I kicked his bottom and he ran after me and gave me such a whack across mine with a strap he was carrying, I never did it again!

I hope these reminiscences are interesting and if anybody mentioned in them is still around I would greatly appreciate their contacting me.

Neville Sumpter, 26th May 2007

Editor's note: To see some more pictures of Neville's family, click here.

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