Verity Fincher wrote down reminiscences of growing up in Abbot’s Salford. Her recollections of the village and its residents offer an insight into life in Abbot’s Salford in the early 20th century.
Cottages and gardens
Our village, Abbot’s Salford, was very small with not more than a dozen cottages. All were built of brick with tiled or thatched roofs, most were in twos and some were painted white with a small amount of dark timbering. They were all very old and, though picturesque to look at, dark and cramped inside. I think at the time I was staying in Salford the farm labourers’ wages were £1 a week. Nearly all the cottages had long gardens at the back where they would grow vegetables for the family and most of them had a pigsty at the end. Several had pretty flower gardens at the front and roses and everlasting sweet peas climbed the walls.
The cottage I remember best was where Mrs. Sollis lived. She did our washing and her husband worked on the farm. Her only daughter, who was married, lived in the adjoining cottage. Her husband was a carter, which was a job that was considered superior, and he earned more money. They had an only daughter who was clever and had won a scholarship to the Grammar School at Alcester, which was almost unheard of. Mother did not like her mother, she considered that she “gave herself airs”, but she thought the world of Mrs. Sollis. It is strange but in the whole village her face is the only one I can remember clearly.
Besides the cottages, there was Moat Farm, the Priest’s house and another large farm house on the main road; it was completely covered with the small leaved virginia creeper, which in Autumn was a flaming red. The two Miss Smiths lived there with their brother. Next to them was a very pretty house, quite old and it was covered with roses and other creepers. I do not know who lived there but it seemed empty most of the time. There was the Blacksmith’s Forge with a house attached to it and opposite was the Eyston Arms. Then came the “dear womans” shop and after that a stretch of fields until about half a mile away was the start of Salford Priors.
I remember one time we visited the vicarage very well. For some reason we seem to have left later than usual, and we could feel the cool of evening in the air. We knew it was past the time the last train had gone on its way, and we decided to walk along the railway line. On the right hand side there was a boggy ditch and at this time it was full of yellow iris and patches of blue water forget-me-nots and of course the taller meadow sweet scented the air. Overhead swallows swooped and then gathered on the telegraph poles. On the other side of the hedge, which was the official boundary of the railway line, was a long and narrow field. It was haymaking time and across the field in a line were about seven young women. They all wore sunbonnets on their heads and had scythes in their hands, and in perfect unison they went forward swishing the scythes leaving a long row of grass behind. We watched spellbound.
We were quite used to haymaking (we had been helping at Moat Farm only the previous day) but those fields were large and we had never seen a sight like this. In “our” fields it was mostly men who worked and the women came down with children and brought the men their lunches. This was quite different, it looked just like a picture I had once seen and I will never forget it. We stayed watching and dawdled so long, Maud [our maid] had gone along the road to meet us, so when we arrived home without her we were in trouble.
Verity’s full memories can be consulted at the Warwickshire County Record Office, reference DIG 195.