February on the farm (2024)

Vincenzo Luigi Cugini at work on Syresham church roof in 1970. Photograph by Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

The countryside remains much the same as it has for last three months, with hedge trimming the only task being carried out. Whilst some is done by the farmer himself, most hedge trimming is done by a contractor. With some dispensation allowed in August to cut, the season extends from September to the end of February. A contractor therefore has six months to plan his work, and one man has been doing this for well over fifty years. Many of you may have recognised a small blue Leyland tractor at work in the parishes around here, cutting hedges in winter and mowing grass verges for the council in summer. This combination of senior citizen and tractor of sixties vintage still do a high class job, and have created quite a record for longevity.

Noel is a great character always happy to break off for a chat and recite a yarn or two, and this brings me to mention a past Sulgrave village character, known only to those of you who have lived in the village for a long time. In Manor Rd you may have noticed a cottage between Nutcracker and Hill Farm house that has a wide oak front door with raised and fielded panels and inscribed in the stonework above are the initials V.L.C. 1956. This was the home of Vincenzo Luigi Cugini, an Italian carpenter, joiner and cabinet maker who worked for the village builders, Wootton Brothers. He made the door in the company’s carpenters’ workshop between the telephone exchange and the present village shop to advertise his skills. Vince was conscripted into the Italian army, serving time in Abyssinia before surrendering along with many other Italians at the battle of El Alamein. He then came as a prisoner of war to the Sulgrave camp situated on the left up the Helmdon Rd (a stack of white silage bags mark the area today). This was in 1943 and the prisoners, all Italians, were sent to work on the local farms. Vincent like many of his compatriots stayed on after the war and was offered a job by Sid Wootton, father of Colin (who has been kind enough to supply this information) and he was to stay with the firm until his retirement. He was a master craftsman and I have witnessed some of his work in a friend’s house built in the late sixties. Married with a family before the war separated them, he was to marry a Sulgrave lady called Connie, who outlived him by some twenty years.

Sulgrave has a rich history and this true story needs to be remembered for posterity.

Richard Fonge



2 Responses to “February on the farm (2024)”

  1. Chris Henn says:

    Connie Cugini was my mother Daphne Henn’s Aunt. She lived in Sulgrave for many years, rarely missed Sunday Service at our church, participated in all village events even in her late eighties and usually manned a stall at the Village Fete. She was an active member of village societies and lived life to the full. Vincent was her third husband but sadly was already suffering from lung cancer when they married. Connie died in her 91st year.

  2. I knew Vince very well, from working with him in my father’s carpenters’ workshop (Wootton Bros Ltd) during my school holidays (1948 to 1954). I vividly remember that the last thing he said to me was in respect of his wife, Connie – “She is a good woman….such a good woman”. Their names can be seen together on one of the tombstones in the small garden of rest in the Churchyard adjoining Castle Hill, reserved for the ashes of those who have been cremated.

    Colin Wootton

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