Banburyshire Family History

A site designed for you to share your family history with others from the Banbury area

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go back to the last page you were on Out of our window....

Len Denham

Following the resounding response to my tale of M's temporary embarassment and my subsequent discomfiture on the trolleybus, I am moved to burst into print with some more memories! (Read "It's not what you think, Conductor!")

I have written before of the absence of cars on our road prior to the Second World War. This state of affairs meant that as a young child I could look out of the window of our ground floor flat and see across the road. That is a pleasure denied to today's child who would see nothing but a line of parked cars. From my vantage point I would see the various delivery men about their daily business.

There were no less than three milkmen each delivering daily to people in our road. First the Co-op, still dispensing milk in the old wide-mouthed bottles with cardboard caps, then the Express Dairy whose bottling plant was next to the railway, a couple of streets away, and finally, about lunchtime, the United Dairies roundsman who always put a nosebag on his horse outside our house and disappeared to have a cup of tea with one of the ladies 'over the road'. Whilst I heard the odd comment along the lines of, "No good will come of it, you mark my words!", this daily habit of the milkman worked to our considerable advantage.

There was an unwritten law that any droppings outside your flat were yours. Of course that meant that some half a dozen tenants could lay claim to the horses daily production. Now you must bear in mind that the horse was in the shafts so, unless one wanted one's head kicked in, it was necessary to wait until the milkman re-appeared, stowed away the now empty nosebag and got under way before dashing out with the bucket and shovel. Being young and nippy meant that I did alright in the daily race for the free organic manure.

For some reason that is quite beyond me bread deliveries were not made in our road although a baker's handcart could be seen elsewhere in the neighbourhood. There were, however, plenty of others to compensate the young window watcher. 'Our' coalman usually called by appointment. That is to say we ordered the coal either by dropping into the coal office or sending a postcard. Within a day or two the coalman arrived. The advantage of pre-ordering was that you got what you ordered whereas casual purchasers were frequently unlucky. This was not due to any shortage of coal but rather to the pulling capacity of the pair of horses.

These horses were of an altogether different calibre to the cob that pulled the milkcart. They stood sixteen or seventeen hands high and they needed to be strong. Coal was delivered in sacks of two sizes, a hundredweight or two hundredweights. The larger tall sacks were always stacked up at the front of the cart and down the centre with the smaller sacks around the outside. Those horses must have had a load of several tons when they set out from their depot. It is no surprise that the coal delivery is one of the earliest I remember changing to lorries.

In contrast we had smaller horses and carts as regular visitors. There was the rag'n bone man with his never to be forgotten cry of "I'll buy any ol' rags, old iron and lumber". Not for us the call to the local council to enquire the charge for removing unwanted furniture or appliances! We sold it to the rag'n bone man for a few coppers.

On Sundays we had three regular callers. The winkle man who would have spent from twelve o'clock until two stationed outside one of the local pubs and then drove around the estate selling shellfish by the pint or half-pint for Sunday tea. He sold winkles, cockles, prawns, shrimps, mussels and whelks all measured with a metal tankard and dispensed in a brown paper bag. Then a little later came the muffin man selling muffins and crumpets and finally the sweet man who sold all manner of boiled sweets. Mint humbugs, aniseed balls and a whole variety of different sweets with a distinctly medicinal, cough sweety sort of flavour.

The horses that pulled these carts seemed to be, invariably, of docile nature if fairly disinterested in any attempt to make a fuss of them. More often than not they appeared to make up their own mind when it was time to move on a few yards and their masters could usually be seen following behind the cart rather than sitting upon it.

Can you imagine that happening now?

Written by Len Denham