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A Walk Through Hilton in the 1930s, addendum

When I stand in the front porch of my thatched cottage on the edge of The Green, I often think how fortunate I have been to have lived all my life looking out on to what must be one of the prettiest village greens in the country. Many of the mature beech and oak trees, which are about two hundred years old, look much the same as they did when I was a boy in the early nineteen thirties.

All the large elm trees that bordered The Green died in the nineteen fifties, thanks to Dutch elm disease. The local tree surgeons at this time were the Horner brothers and they were given the job of felling the trees. Of course there were no chainsaws at this time so all the felling was done with axes and cross-cut saws.

There were three huge elm trees growing by the ditch in front of The Limes which towered above the oaks and beeches. These and the best of the other trees were sold to the saw mills and the brushwood was left for the villagers to collect for firewood. Only one or two houses had central heating so this free supply of firewood was very welcome.

The pollarded wych elms, locally called doddles, also succumbed to the disease. Many of them were hollow and only fit for firewood but the solid ones were quite valuable when they were sawn into planks. They had a very intricate patterned grain and were used for furniture making.

Some of the houses in the village have Common Rights; this entitles the owner to graze a cow on The Green during summer, May to October. If an owner of one of these Rights had no cattle, he let a farmer use his. There are seventeen Common Rights and there were always seventeen cows grazing the common in the summer. There had to be someone looking after the cows to prevent them from straying and he was paid seventeen pence per week for this job by the owners of the cows. In the thirties it was Jack King, nicknamed "Cusser" as he used to curse and swear a lot.

The only part of The Green that was cut was the cricket pitch, which was an area about fifty yards square. The outfield relied on the grazing cows to keep it short. However, I remember one year the square was extended and one farmer complained, saying "you are taking the grass out of the cows’ mouths"! The wicket area was never roped off as it is today; it was up to the herdsman to keep the cows off it.

After I was eleven years old, I used to work for Wilf Furniss on Saturday mornings and during the school holidays. Mr Furniss owned Grange Farm and most of the land on the south side of The Green. He was a very keen cricketer and was captain of Hilton for many years. During the cricket season and if there was a home game, it was my job to take the wheel barrow and shovel and collect the cowpats from the cricket pitch area!

Mr Furniss (who was also a butcher) owned a welsh cob pony and trap which was used for delivering meat. This pony was also used for pulling the mower to cut the cricket square. The heavy roll was also pulled by the pony. I used to fit large leather shoes on the pony to prevent his hooves from digging in the wicket. I would lead the pony and Mr Furniss would steer the mower. The heavy roll had shafts, like a cart, and didn’t need steering. The actual wicket was cut with a small push mower.

Home cricket matches were always played on Saturday, there was no Sunday cricket. There were enough members to field two teams. The first team was regarded as one of the best in the county and played in the county cup games, also friendly games against the best teams in the county and the Cambridge colleges who had some very talented players.

The most popular game of the season was Hilton versus the farmers. Jim Billings (a village farmer) would muster a team of his farming friends to oppose Hilton. This game was always played during Feast Week and was an all day match with a hot lunch, a tea and a barrel of beer. The lunch was cooked by John White, the village baker, in his bread oven.


Additional information provided by Richard Garnett:

The Rectory on The Green, was formerly known as The Pastures and was renamed The Old Rectory in the 1970s by Mr Riches who lived there then. This house was never a rectory.

The Vicarage by The Green was burned down on feast week Sunday in 1928.

Manor House on The Green, was formerly known as Manor Farm.

Mr Cooke who lived in a thatched cottage next to Hilton Hall, was a retired railway guard.

Oak Tree Farm on The Green, was formerly known as The Old Red Cow and was only called Oak Tree Farm in the 1960s or 70s when it had ceased to be a farm.

Jim Robinson, who lived in Oak Tree Farm, later called himself "White-Robinson".



Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 July 2009 23:39