Village Figures

  Harry Betts remembers ...

  The Revd T K B Nevinson

  The Servants at Lyndon Hall

We are grateful to Charles Mayhew and the Rutland History & Record Society
for allowing us to reproduce these articles.

Harry Betts remembers ...

As a postscript to the records of the Revd T K B Nevinson, Mr Harry Betts, who was baptised by Mr Nevinson in 1906 and lived in the village until he died in 1997 at the age of 90, had clear recollections of the estate before the First World War. His father had come to Lyndon as coachman in 1903. He himself later became chauffeur, spending the last 40 years of his life in the gardener's cottage.

He remembered that a few years before the war there was a staff of ten at the Hall. Each Sunday morning they would go to church, the women wearing black bonnets tied under the chin, and would sit in the pews in the south aisle.

On the estate there was a cowman and shepherd who lived in a cottage in Post Office Lane. He was responsible for the dairy and for supplying butter to the Hall. There were also a coachman and groom, and three gardeners. The groom and the two single gardeners lived in the room over the apple store. This three storey building was just inside the entrance to the Old Rectory (now demolished). Under the apple store was the stable for the gardener's horse. The groom and the two single gardeners ate in the Bothy where a woman would come and cook for them.

He remembers that the estate bricklayer and mason came from Hambleton on a tricycle and had his workshop in the end part of the head gardener's cottage. The estate carpenter lived in the Lodge, and his housekeeper was responsible for opening the Hall gates for anyone calling at the Hall.

The Revd T K B Nevinson
Glimpses of Life in Lyndon at the end of the nineteenth century

On Saturday 19th January 1889 the Revd T K B Nevinson MA was instituted to the living of Lyndon. He married, had children, took a leading part in the life of the village -and kept a record of village activity , which gives us an interesting insight into the daily life of the community of his time.

Mr Nevinson records the first Parish Meeting to be held in the village, in accordance with the Local Government Act 1894, in the Old Rectory on 4th December 1894 at 6 pm. He was elected chairman. He goes on to record its dynamic discussions! On 22nd March 1902 "Mr Presgrave (one of the Overseers of the Poor) called attention to the prevalence of moles in the Lordship, but nothing definite was done." At the Vestry Meeting on 30th March 1889 Mr J Stanton had been appointed Mole-catcher: the salary paid out of a voluntary Penny Rate was 50 shillings. But by April 1891 Mr Stanton had left the village and the office of Mole-catcher was abolished.

On 25th November 1908 "A meeting (public) was held in the Laundry to discuss the question of asphalting the paths in the village. Of the twelve men present, ten voted in favour of asphalt, two against N.B. The Highway Committee of the R[ural] D[istrict] Council in June 1909 refused to sanction the proposal."

But some things did happen in the village:

On twelfth November 1891, there was started a Reading-room for the men and boys of Lyndon in the room over the Sunday School at the old Rectory. The Room will be open during the winter months on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6 to 9 pm. No betting or gambling, and no refreshments will be allowed. There were twelve present on the opening night.

In the Autumn of 1900 a road was made in front of the five cottages adjoining the Village Green, and carried round to join the Wing Road, the object being to keep carts off the Green.

And then the postal arrangements were improved. "Previous to Dec. 1900 there was only one delivery (8.25 am) and one collection (4.45 pm). In Nov 1900 a Petition to the Postmaster General was drawn up by the Rector, and signed by the principal inhabitants of Lyndon, Manton, and Wing...". The result was that there were two deliveries and two collections each day. Today this has averaged out to two collections and one delivery!

The spirit of Thomas Barker lived on. On 17th December 1896 Mr Nevinson records: "A slight earthquake shock was felt at Lyndon between 5.30 and 6.00 pm: no damage was done." Later, on Monday 28th May 1900: "An eclipse of the sun took place from 2.47 to 4.57 pm, total in Spain, N Africa etc. Here more than 3/5 of the sun was obscured ...The Rector and his Son carried pieces of smoked glass round the village."

And then to the supernatural: "In the possession of Mr Conant is (1904) a document which sets forth that Mr Sam Barker in 1722 let Lyndon Hall on lease to Mr Thos Trollope. It provides among other things that "a young holly hedge against Hand's Lane is to be preserved and delivered up in as good order as found upon entrance. NB Hand's Lane, which used to be the direct road to Manton and ran along the south side of the holly hedge, until it was stopped by Mr E N Conant, had the reputation of being haunted, teste Mrs. Wm Fox, nee Sidney, +1901."

Among the profusion of church activity , the Rector records the founding of a branch of the Mother's Union on 5th December 1900. "Nine members were admitted after Evensong at 3 pm, being a Wednesday in Advent." On Sunday 1st May 1904 "A Hymn Board, the gift of Mrs. Jane Jackson Housekeeper at Lyndon Hall, was used for the first time."

And then of course there were the people. Amongst them was Thomas Cliffe who succeeded Richard Barsby, whose memorial tablet is on the east wall of the south porch (see above), as Parish Clerk, presumably in 1872. He lived in the first cottage on the right hand side, approaching Lyndon from Wing. "It is reputed that when water was laid on from the old Hall reservoir to the wells in the village (see below), he refused to use it, and continued to fetch his own water from a spring down in the field near the river. "

On 14th February 1893 he wrote to the Rector:

Rev Sir,
I now address you on a subject which may not to you be pleasing but at the same time I feel it my duty to do so; tomorrow being the first day of Lent you will undoubtedly pronounce the curse against sinners of whom I am chief Therefore I cannot conciencially pronounce the Amen any more I will light the fire as usual and chime the Bells and stop at the service but make no response to those horrid sentences in all other matters your servant I am
Thos Cliffe.

Mr Cliffe resigned the clerkship owing to lameness on 18th July 1897. The Rector decided not to appoint another clerk, and on 31st October 1905 Thomas Cliffe died at the age of 80.

There is a cutting from the Grantham Journal of 18th April 1903 recording the welcome given to Mr E W P Conant and his family, Mr Conant having succeeded to the estate of the late E N Conant, Esq. his father. "At the entrance-lodge gates, a very pretty arch was erected. At the top, upon a background of red cloth, was the word "Welcome", cut out of white material. Suspended from the centre was a good' imitation of a horseshoe, made of primroses and forget-me-nots. Over the entrance-hall, also upon a background of red cloth, and the letters in white, were the words "Health and Happiness": while at each corner two Union Jacks were floating in the breeze. Mr and Mrs Conant arrived at Manton Station by the 5.35 train on Wednesday evening, and the inhabitants, his tenants, turned out en masse to give them a hearty reception. Upon their arrival, the horse was taken out of the shafts, ropes were quickly attached, and the carriage was drawn up to the front door, where the Rector of the parish, the Rev T K B Nevinson, in a few well-chosen words, welcomed Mr and Mrs Conant and family. Mr Conant, in reply, thanked all for their enthusiastic greeting, and kindly invited those who had drawn the carriage to partake of refreshments, the health of Mr and Mrs Conant being duly toasted. Mr Nevinson called for three cheers, which were vociferously given. The bells were rung upon their arrival and during the evening. Mr and Mrs Nevinson, Messrs B Wright, head gardener, and assistants, helped with the decorations."

On the north wall of the north aisle of the Church there is a plaque which commemorates a death in South Africa. The account here is from the Grantham Journal of 5th July 1902.

Sad news reached [Lyndon] on June 24th, by telegram from the War Office to Mr and Mrs B Wright, stating that their eldest son, Frederick Lewis [of the South African Constabulary] had been thrown from his horse in South Africa, causing concussion of the brain, from which he died. He was well-known and respected, gaining many friends wherever he went, and his death will be felt and deplored. Great sympathy is expressed for the bereaved parents and his brother, in their trouble.

Mr Ben Wright, the father, was the head gardener on the estate and lived in Gardener's Cottage.

It is interesting to learn of the planting of some of the trees which we now enjoy in Lyndon Parish.

In the Autumn of 1898 Mr Ernest W P Conant had 125 oak trees planted by the roadsides as follows:-

Manton road 68
Wing ditto 42
E Weston ditto 15

The first on the left hand side of Wing road as you leave the village was planted by Mr E W p Conant; the first ~n the right hand side, below the Rectory was planted by the Rector (f K B Nevinson), the second by the Rector's wife (E M Nevinson), the third by his son (H K B Nevinson). Besides these, 76 lime trees were planted on the Luffenham road beyond the Lyndon parish boundary,"

The water supply to Lyndon has an interesting history.

A map in the possession of Ed N Conant Esq marks the position of the Spring which supplied, and still supplies, the village. The supply used to be conveyed to the village in a stone drain, open most of the way. The Revd Edwd Brown, lord of the manor, who died in Sept 1862, several years before his death made one of the two reservoirs, and substituted iron pipes for the stone drain. Edwd N Conant Esq, who succeeded his uncle Mr Brown, made another reservoir.

The results of the Census are also noted:

Apri1 1891. According to the Official Return the population of Lyndon amounted to 112.

March 1901. The population of Lyndon amounted to 114. N.B. Almost immediately afterwards two families left the village.

Finally there is the impending rectorial change reported by the Grantham Journal of 12th June 1909:

The Rev Thomas Kaye Bonny Nevinson, MA, of St John's College, Cambridge (BA 1874) has just accepted the living of Medbourne-cum-Holt, near Market Harborough, offered him by St John I s College, Cambridge, and which was vacant through the resignation of the Rev Chas Fryer, Eastburn, who had been Rector there since 1870. The annual value, as given in the Diocesan Calendar, is 487 pounds, with thirty one acres of glebe; the population of Medbourne at the last census was 427 and Holt 53. The Rev T K B Nevinson was instituted Rector of Lyndon, near Oakham, in 1889, twenty years ago, and the parishioners, and very many others who know and respect him greatly, will learn of his impending removal with unfeigned regret. The living of Lyndon is of the annual value of 130 pounds, with 14 acres of glebe, and the patron is Mr E W P Conant, of Lyndon Hall.

The Servants at Lyndon Hall

In 1911, Albert Sharpe, aged 14, trudged up the drive of Lyndon Hall to be taken into the employ of Mr. Edward Conant. He was to lodge in the old rectory in a huge bed over which dangled the great row of spring hung bells to the various rooms in the house. The sudden jangling of these so frightened the new hall boy that he asked to sleep in another room.

A new suit of clothes and a wage of £12 a year was to be his pay in the days when a job of any sort was sought, and not to be rejected. The boy would rise at seven in the morning and down he would go to clean the boots and the knives before breakfast at 8 a.m.. sharp. After this meal he would trim the paraffin lamps and, being short, he would have to mount steps to reach the hanging lamps. At 9 on the dot, Mr. Conant rang the handbell and all the staff had to attend in the study for 5 minutes of prayer. In would troop the cook/housekeeper, the governess, the parlourmaid, the kitchen maid, three housemaids and the only man amongst them all, the hall boy. In the absence of a traditional butler, the cook/housekeeper ruled the house with a rod of iron and everyone had to be on time. Despite this, and during the five years that Albert served, he does not recollect anyone getting their notice.

From 9.45 until 11.00 a.m. the hall boy helped the parlourmaid to wash up and leather all the silver ready for lunch. Those items not required were kept in the great safe in the old butler's pantry along with the other silver used on formal occasions. At 11 o'clock came a tea break in the servants hall with scones left over from the masters breakfast After this the servants lunch would have to be laid up by the boy whilst the parlourmaid laid upstairs. As soon as he had finished he would go back to his quarter to change and be ready to carry in the lunch from the cook to the staff seated in the servants hall The meal had to be served not a minute later than 12.30 and the food proved to be of the best of everything, time was important, for the Conants sat down to eat prompt at 1 o'clock.

Washing up again, first the dishes from the servants hall, then those from the dining room, which were dealt with in the pantry. From indoors to outdoors in the summer holidays the hall boy was expected to bowl on the main lawn to Master Rupert and Master Roger for sometimes as long as two hours. In the winter, however, the afternoons were free, and at 5 o'clock, tea was available in the servants hall and at 7 o'clock the boy helped the parlourmaid preparing the silver for dinner upstairs at 8. By the time he had finished washing up and cleaning up, ten o'clock had struck and he would hurry across the churchyard to his bed at the old rectory. The little trip would make his hair stand on end and an old owl in a tree would frighten the life out of him.

The Conants being connected with Phipps Brewery, received concessions of 18 gallons of porter and 18 gallons of light ale for the servants each month. With so many women servants, all the beer was not consumed, although any caller, be he postman or telegram boy always received a pint of beer. Rather than lose the custom of the concession through not drinking all the beer supplied, the Hall Boy would fill empty wine bottles with beer and lower them [five words missing] to the stokehole below. Here the gardeners and other outside men enjoyed their drink. Among them was Mr. Wright, the Head gardener, and four under him who lived in the bothy in the kitchen garden. In addition were the two Brackenberrys, who were gamekeepers, Mr. Sydney the outside carpenter, Mr. Frisby, the herdsman, and two laundry maids. George Betts, the groom/coachman also had his tot, and often he would come back very late after taking the squire out to a party. Despite this he was expected to be up early in the morning, so on occasion he would back up the coach to the front door with only that side cleaned. One morning Mr. Conant asked him to turn it round.

Although one of the gardeners courted the head housemaid, the squire very much frowned upon fraternisation between the inside and outside servants. The only approach to the house permitted to the gardeners was via the outer door of the conservatory where lived the tropical shrubs and a large palm.

The only time off allowed the boy were two hours on a Sunday afternoon, and during his service he never enjoyed a holiday, although he once travelled by train to a convalescent home at Hunstanton, all being paid by the squire.

Eleven o'clock Sunday service was a ritual under the Vicar, Mr. Hodge, also a master at Oakham School All the servants had to attend, sitting in the pews at the back behind the Squire, with Albert, the Hall Boy being seated on a little chair adjacent to the back pew. All girl servants would be dressed in their full uniform, with black hats, the hall Boy in a little black suit

In 1916, Albert joined the Navy under the Derby Scheme. This was a form of volunteering devised by Lord Derby in 1915, to assist the numbers required by the war. Despite nearly three million applying, it was not enough for such a voracious need and a few months later, conscription became inevitable. Albert served on the light cruiser, HMS Cerces, and watched from her decks as the German fleet entered Scapa Flow to surrender at the Armistice. Later the majority of the ships were scuttled in the harbour by their German crews.

Albert Sharp did not return to Lyndon but went to work as handyman for Jimmy Baird at Deanscroft, Oakham.

A 14 year old Elsie (Dickens) went from school to work at the Hall for Mr. Conant at the time of the Great war and a time of scarcity. She tells of a great house without electricity, of oil lamps and candles and having to walk, frightened, down the long corridors at six of a winter's morning, armed with a flickering candle. Before the family came down, all grates had to be polished, fires lit, and rooms made spotless. There seemed to be oak panelling everywhere and it all had to be washed with old beer.

Hip baths were still in use, and great brass cans of hot water had to be carried to each room, and there were the formidable four posters awaiting making.

£11 a year was her pay, and one half day a week and every other Sunday afternoon off, and one was not allowed out after dark. Church had to be attended twice on Sundays, and wearing all black clothes and black bonnets.

She left to work at Ayston Hall.