Rural Life in Wartime Eathorpe

Wartime memories, part 11

The Plough Inn, Eathorpe. Sign on wall saying "Leamington Ales & Stouts. Two bicycles by wall. 1900s
IMAGE LOCATION: (Rugby Library)
Reference: W, 725.72, img: 7808

Continuing the extracts from Julie Barnett’s account of her wartime childhood.1

A schoolboy, Percy, pumped the organ in church. His ‘family, like mine lived in Eathorpe, they had a thatched cottage next to the Plough Inn [presumably that shown in the old photograph]. Nine children and two adults lived in that cottage. It had only one room upstairs, a long room where all the children slept together, and which stretched the length of the house. The parent’s bedroom was on the ground floor, in a room that was once used as a washroom. The cottage had no running water or pump close by. To collect water someone had to walk about a quarter of a mile down a hill to the nearest pump, fill their buckets with water, put the buckets on a pram or trolley and push it up the slope to the cottage… In the upstairs bedroom, toadstools grew out of the thatch into the children’s sleeping quarters but no-one seemed to mind.’

Being taught to thatch

‘I was taught to thatch a roof by a thatcher in Eathorpe. I was walking past the house he was thatching, we spoke and he invited me to join him on the roof, which I did. There he showed me the skills of his trade and allowed me to practise alongside him.’

Children helping with the harvest

‘At certain times of the year like harvest, the older children from the villages would be let off school to help on the farms with potato picking and, in the case of boys, haymaking. Lots of children did this work on the farms during the war, because labour was in short supply as many farm workers volunteered to serve in the armed forces, rather than accept deferment and work on the farm.’

Working on the farm

‘Eric [Julie’s brother] and I became closely involved in the work of the farm, caring for the animals, milking the cows, picking potatoes and helping with the harvest. Mr Reeve paid us for the work we did. Eric used to get up at 5.45 each morning to milk the cows before going to school… We learnt a great deal. I learnt to drive a tractor before I became a teenager and Mr Reeve made sure that we acquired the skills to do so efficiently and safely. We all learnt to lay a hedge. Farming was not all outdoor work though, and Mrs Reeve arranged for her daughter, myself and other girls to have lessons in cooking and other domestic arts, in her kitchen. It was a wonderful education and a privilege to be part of the community.’

Do you have childhood memories of helping on a farm?

1 Warwickshire County Record Office CR 3913/1

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