A Year in the Life of a 1950s Child in Great Horwood Gill Wood
In a small village like Great Horwood our pleasures were the occasional events that were not part of our everyday life. Our first day to look forward to was the Whaddon Chase Hunt Point-to-Point. This was held on the land opposite Sunny Hill Farm on Little Horwood Road. For weeks we would have been watching the jumps being built and wondering if they would be any higher than last year’s. The Sunday before the meeting, known as Point-to-Point Sunday, was the villagers’ chance to walk the course before the big day. At last the Saturday came and we would have a very early lunch so that we could walk across the fields to get there before the first race. It was a very well supported event but nobody came home any richer than they were at the beginning of the day. Some years we would have as many as three Point-to-Point meetings from other hunts.
The next events were the bazaars and fête days. Our first fête would be Field Day, which was organised by Mrs Griffin, the Schoolmistress, to raise money to take the village children on an outing later in the year. I remember going to Wicksteed Park and Billing Aquadrome on two occasions. The fête started with the fête queen and her attendants parading down the village in a decorated horse-drawn cart, supplied by the farmer, Mr Mason, and led by the Great Horwood Silver Band. The cart was followed by every child in the school wearing fancy dress, again organised by Mrs Griffin. It didn’t matter whether you wanted to go in the parade or not, because if she said you were, you just had to go in it. Next came the church fête and then, in August, the village hall fête, again to raise money for both organisations.
Children’s fancy dress parade on The Green, 1950s
Field Day parade, late 1940s or 1950s
Also in late July was the produce show organised by the Women’s Institute. My father was a keen entrant and would spend a long time growing the longest runner bean and whitest cauliflower. One year when he had just laid all of his produce out along the back yard, my mother had a load of coal delivered. That coal dust did his white cauliflowers no good, but it all ended happily with him still winning first prize with them.
In August came the fair. For weeks we had been saving our pocket money and looking forward to two nights of dodgem rides, swingboats and the general hurly-burly of the fair. The big lorries would start parking outside my house in Little Horwood Road during the afternoon, waiting until 7.00 pm when the church service would be over and they would be allowed to get on to The Green. They were always played on to The Green by the Great Horwood Silver Band and the village would turn out to watch them start erecting the fair. They always started with the dodgem cars. It was also a very profitable time for the two public houses in the village.
Rita Barfoot and Valerie Ridgway enjoying a swingboat ride, 1950s.
Our last big days would be in the autumn when the hunt met on The Green in November. For a child who loved horses and dogs, it was a marvellous time. The ethics of hunting did not come into it.
November Meet of the Whaddon Chase Hunt on The Green, c.1972
Villagers enjoy meeting the horses and hounds
Of course there was also Bonfire Night, when my family would buy me some fireworks from Keys Stores which we let off in the garden. There were rockets, jumping jacks, roman fountains, spinning catherine wheels, sparklers, and bangers. In the 1950s there was no organised bonfire event. There were also the religious festivals, Easter, Harvest, Christmas and, because the school was a Church of England school, we had the occasional half-day off for these. Those really were the big days in my childhood. Compared to modern children, our pleasures and entertainments were very simple but they gave a lot of enjoyment and wonderful memories.