The Black Market in Eathorpe

A wartime childhood, part nine

Weston under Wetherley former hospital
Anne Langley

More extracts from Julie’s account of her wartime childhood1.

‘During the war…the ‘black market’ [operated] and the racketeers who ran it, in big towns and cities, were known as spivs. Eathorpe was a thriving centre for the local black market and the Plough Inn was its focal point…Most people seemed to be involved and, as residents in the village, we never lacked anything, probably because we had the space to grow our own food, and to raise our own chickens, ducks and pigs. A side of bacon was always hanging in our kitchen, we could fish in the river and had plenty of surplus eggs to sell, or exchange, to the people who came seeking something extra to supplement the rations each person was entitled to receive.’

The Plough Inn

‘Anything you couldn’t get in the shops, you could obtain at the Plough Inn. People came from Coventry to buy the illicit goods. My mother used to sell our  B.Us (Bread Units) to a Coventry business man and his wife, as our local baker couldn’t be bothered with them and never seemed to need them. Seekers of black market goods would come to the Plough in the evening, buy a drink and sit in the smoking room with their pockets stuffed with carrier bags waiting for the landlady to appear at the hatch. She would quietly call a name and nod towards a room at the back of the inn. One by one, people would get up and disappear into the back of the pub where she would meet them and take them into her store room, where they could select the items they wanted: meat, fish, vegetables, oranges, bananas, sweets, clothes and petrol coupons.’

Stolen goods from Weston Colony

‘Blankets were sometimes available…They were thick woollen and sold like hot cakes. We kept ours for about a fortnight, then the police came and took them from us. Unknown to us, they had been stolen from Weston Colony, as it was known then, before it was re-named Weston Hospital…The Colony was for mentally defective people. They were probably well cared for, and they were all dressed alike…The nurses took them on long walks, and groups of forty people would walk together from Weston to Hunningham and then to Eathorpe before returning to Weston. They used to love seeing us children and would smile as they passed us by…Although sweets and chocolate were rationed, we never went short as my parents had contacts who kept us adequately supplied.’

Part ten may be found here.

1Warwickshire County Record Office CR 3913/1.

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