Memories of life in Orwell from 1939 to 1953

John S. Coulson

  • My name is John Coulson, son of Mr Albert Coulson and Mrs Laura Jane Coulson. I came into the world in February 1939 at Addenbrokes Hospital in Cambridge. I have a brother Ken  and a step brother Cyril. We lived in Orwell High Street just opposite the pub (probably the Nag's Head) and just up from the farm in a one up one down cottage with no toilet and no electricity, with a thatched roof which the corner fell off.  I believe our house was owned by some person from London as he had a shed that he used to stay in up the slope at the back garden.  I used  to go and get the the evenings from the farm that was a couple of houses down. (This may have been Lilac Farm).  I seem to remember the farmer had a wooden leg that used to make a creaking  noise when he walked. Ken was born in Mill Road Maternity Hospital in Cambridge in March 1943.                                                                  
  • Dad had worked at the Barrington Cement works before the war, but after he was demobbed in 1945 he found a job in Arrington on a very large farm.
  • Wartime in Orwell

  • My childhood memories of Orwell include playing in the chalk caves and seeing soldiers marching through the village and a small track armoured car with a radio making a call just up behind the Vicarage
  •  I can remember cycling to friends near Royston with Mum and we had to stop to let the American  bombers across the road at Bassingbourn;talk about health and safety ! I also remember seeing USAF Airmen going to Cambridge on little scooters.    
  • Schooldays

  • In the winter of 1947 Dad took  me down the road to Barrington and the snow must have been over six foot high.  When we had to see a Doctor we went to the  Duke of Wellington pub were he had a room for visits.  I had to pick up bread from the baker's when I got home from school, but all the corners were bitten off by the time I got home. I can remember two Mrs Bakers being teachers at our school, or is my mind playing tricks ?  (No Mr Coulson - you are quite right ! SHM) The teacher put up fake bananas and oranges etc, and tried to catch us all out. I was a choir boy at St Andrew's and went to two Sunday schools; that way you had two parties, plus two presents.  I remember at the chapel you had a book. I often wondered much later how many brothers and sisters were conceived on Sunday afternoons. I also remember one trip to Wicksteed Park on a coach, with either the Sunday school or the village school.
  • Bereavements scattered the family for a while

  • Just after the war ended I lost my Nan and Grandad Storey  from Ermine Way in Arrington  and  some time later lost Mum. They all now lie in Arrington churchyard. As a result of their deaths I found myself at the age of 8 owning a thatched cottage with no means of keeping it in order, so Dad sold it for £150 pounds. I believe it now has a preservation order on it and is worth a lot more. When  Mum passed away Dad sent me to live with Aunt Dot and Ken to live with Nan Coulson for about two years. Dad remarried and my step Mum came with a son, now my step brother Cyril. When we all came together Dad got a council house, No 8 Meadowcroft Way. This house had no toilet, just a bucket which Dad emptied down the drain
  • I remember there was a field at the end of Meadowcroft where big thistles grew and we used to make tracks in them and in November   there was a very big Bonfire there. We would go down to the brook at the back of Meadowcroft, catching rabbits, until Mum forbade me to do so as she got fed up with  rabbit every day. When they were building the houses in Meadowcroft all the children in the area would help to unload the brick lorries.
  • Life in Meadowcroft

  • We had no television, but just up the road all the children went to watch Tom Mix, the best cowboy in the world.  When it was over we ran back home pretending to smack our backsides to make the horse go faster. We had a wireless but you had to use an accumulator to power it and I remember we had to go to Mr Maddocks the school teacher's husband to get this recharged. I still had to go and get the milk in the evenings and I had to pass the phone box  and that's where I learned to spell 'telephone.'
  • Like all the local children we went to the big school in Wimpole Park if we did not pass the 11 plus exam.  The local council gave us a bike to cycle to school, but on the last day of term you had to leave your bike and walk home, so you did not go to school on the last day!  
  • In 1949 I had to go to Addenbrookes Hospital to have my tonsils out and the Butcher told me that I would be given ice cream afterwards; I replied 'what's ice cream?' It was something new in those days.
  • Goodbye to Orwell

  • Eventually my step Mum and Cyril felt home sick for Westonzoyland so Dad moved there, Dad, Mum, Ken and Cyril travelling in the back of the removal lorry and me in the front with the two drivers. 
This page was added by John Coulson on 21/07/2015.

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