Village Advent Calendar Celebrations 2019. December 10th. Wykham, Helmdon Road,

It had to happen sometime – 9 days of fine, dry weather and now the gales and rain. Nevertheless, the usual culprits turned up, together with lots of people new to this form of evening “entertainment”, so it was interesting to see introductions being made all round. It remains to be seen how many people will remember who they shook hands with on a wet and windy night in the dark!

More pictures on the next page (Click on ” Read the rest of this entry”)



Our hosts for the evening, Sophie and George, with Bella.














The decorated window can be seen on the first floor, top right hand corner, before being illuminated. For obvious reasons the now traditional unveiling ceremony was not possible! Since Wykham is well set back from the road, this high location ensures greater visibility for the window.



A brief but enjoyable time was had by all, but there was little appetite to linger in such wet and windy weather.


For almost 40 years, the house shown in the picture above occupied the site in Helmdon Road where Wykham now stands. On his return from army service in 1945, my father re-joined the long established building business in the village. Mainly owing to his industry and application, it prospered and in 1952 he decided to build a new family house in the village. A site was available in Helmdon Road, deemed sufficiently large for two houses, with ample gardens (largely given over to vegetable growing in those days). Over the years, the restriction of the expansion of villages by the establishment of “confine lines” inevitably led to infilling until practically every large garden became the site of a new house. Thus the original site restricted to two properties now contains: Wykham, Willow House, Ferns, Mayberry and Green Gable!

The early 1950s was a period of massive countrywide reconstruction programmes after the second world war. Building materials were scarce and often rationed by government licence. However, with large areas of the city still comprising bombed sites, the ubiquitous London stock bricks were available pretty well free to all who could collect them, clean them and re-use them. Hence the building company’s prewar lorry made many journeys to London, struggling home with enormous loads of bricks. Slates were almost unobtainable and tiles were rare. However, Canadian cedarwood shingles were readily available, cheap and light to transport and these became the chosen roofing material.

The village had no public water supply in those days. Nevertheless, a bathroom with the usual sanitary fittings was included in the design. Rain water from the roof was collected into a large outside tank and pumped up into the header tank in the roof. It was somewhat brown in colour but beautifully soft for washing purposes. Drinking water came from the stream at the bottom of the hill. Using the semi rotary pump and filling the fresh water buckets were daily tasks that awaited me on my return from school. Until main sewerage arrived in the village the house had a septic tank in the garden.

I took the above picture in 1952 aged fourteen and the possessor of a new folding Brownie camera, bought with my earnings as the village paper boy. The black and white film was developed and prints made in the glow of a red light in my blacked out bedroom (top right in the picture).

My father was an accomplished mason and bricklayer and so the lounge in the house contained a large, elaborate, “brickette” fireplace which was his pride and joy! Underneath the final brickette he inserted this piece of paper:

This was common practice in the building trade, with the tradesman leaving evidence of his handwork which he expected to be found hundreds of years later. However, by the 1990s the sites of houses in villages became more valuable than the houses themselves and it became not uncommon to acquire a property simply for the land it stood on (and the implied planning permission) and then demolish the original building and replace it with a bigger one. So, my father lived long enough to be given his piece of paper back by the demolition contractor! He was not best pleased at what he saw as the unnecessary demolition of a perfectly sound house, but we’ll let that pass!

The very few remaining villagers of my generation may like to know that the young lady on the right of the group in the picture was my cousin Rosemary Wootton.

Colin Wootton


One Response to “Village Advent Calendar Celebrations 2019. December 10th. Wykham, Helmdon Road,”

  1. Digby Lewis says:

    Another wonderful history lesson. You really should write a book on the recent history of Sulgrave, Colin. Put me down for a copy.

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