Animals in the snow on an evening when the weather was more like that in spring than winter!
More pictures and some information about Westfield on the next page.
As confirmed on the stone between the two first floor windows, the property now known as “Westfield” was built by my great-grandfather Isaac Wootton in 1868. Isaac lived in the house next door, now known as “The Retreat”:
This photo of his house dates from about 1875 and it is likely that the man seated by the window is Isaac himself. He was at that time the proprietor of the family building business with a yard and and workshop in what is now the garden of Westfield, see photo below.
The workshop is on the left, Westfield on the right and the gable end of The Retreat can also be seen.
The property originally comprised a pair of semi detached workers’ cottages. These cottages were extremely basic, even for Victorian times, as I came to appreciate very well when I lived in the left hand one with my mother and father from 1946 to 1950. After demobilisation from his wartime army service in 1946 my father Sidney, his brother Tom and nephew William (Young Bill), resurrected the building business under the name of “Wootton Brothers (Contractors) Ltd”. He acquired land in Helmdon Road and built a new house there, using second hand London “stock bricks” from bombed sites. Building materials were hard to come by at that time. Whilst the house was under construction we lived, relatively comfortably for those austere times, in one half of Westfield.
The accommodation comprised one room on the ground floor, with a door opening on to the track leading to the nearby farm, through which cows on their way to and from milking occasionally put their heads in summer time! A typical Victorian kitchen stove, exactly like the one shown below, served to heat the house, the water in the kettles and the backsides of those privileged to stand in front of it. A one room house with a stove in the room could be said to be centrally heated and it was indeed very cosy, especially for a small boy getting up for school some time after the fire had been lit, using kindling wood kept overnight in the oven. The latter was used on Sundays to produce roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (almost!) as good as any I have tasted since.
As there was no running water, there was no need to waste space on a bathroom and a tin bath filled with water from the kettles was placed in front of the flickering flames of the stove at regular intervals. I believe it was Queen Elizabeth I who was said to have taken a bath every year, whether she needed one or not!
A semi-circular staircase in one corner led up to the first floor, where there was one bedroom. I slept on a kind of landing, which I shared with a friendly mouse, inside for the winter, popping its head out between the Biggles books on my small bookcase.
The rather rocky garden between the house and the barn was used as a chicken run. This had to be crossed to get into the barn, in one corner of which was the “toilet facility”, basically a wooden seat over a large bucket. When necessary, this bucket was carried down the track in front of the house towards the farm where it was emptied into a ready prepared hole in a small vegetable garden. So as to inconvenience the neighbours as little as possible, this was done at night, my task being to hold the torch! Fresh water was collected in buckets from the well in the nearby farmyard.
When I was about seven years old, a large and vicious cockerel noisily lorded it over the chicken run. For some reason he was named Peter and he ran to peck my legs each time I made a dash for the barn. How I looked forward to his part in the Christmas celebrations!