Mr F.C.Gadsen, former brick worker, talks with Carmela about childhood in Stewartby, before it became a village.
“My father was a farm labourer and we lived in a labourer’s cottage at Cooke’s Rousbery Manor Farm, Wootton Pillinge… what is now the top of Stewartby. We always called the hill, “Top of the Hill”. Before the Stewartby Village was built (the cottage stood where there is now a roundabout leading to Montgomery Road), I was the first child and I had a brother three years later.
Was you father always a farm worker?
He was born in Wootton Pillinge. His parents lived down the road and they all seemed to be in the farm labouring business in those days. So he just carried on as a labourer, when he left school. His father, my grandfather, lived at what is now 57 Stewartby Way. There were two cottages there and where me grandfather lived, wooden buildings called “The Bungalows”, which housed men in the brick industry.
You mentioned Cook’s farm. Where was that, then?
It was opposite where we lived… you just crossed the road. It was a big farm. He (Cook) owned the majority of the land which is London Brick (now Hanson). He had two sons who worked on the farm. My father was the horse keeper… half a dozen (horses) perhaps.
What was grown on the farm?
Mainly arable crops – corn, wheat, barley, oats – and they had a big dairy. They delivered all the milk in the area, as well. It was quite a big cowshed – over 20 milking cows. Then they had the dairy.
Were you involved with the farm?
Yes, all my school holidays I used to work at the farm. In the summer time, I used to drive the horses. We used to leave the farm and go right down where Coronation Pit is today, down the fields and back round the roads from the S-bend, down on Broadmead and come up the road because we had a load of corn. Then, in winter time I would clean the farmer’s boots and leggings, clean out the dairy and do odd jobs. I got three pence (1p) I think. I even bought my last short-trouser suit to go to school, with my wages from the farm. To get mobile, I even bought my first bicycle, second-hand.
Then, some Saturday mornings, a little bit later, I used to work at Stewartby stores, after Stewartby village was built. I used to work there, delivering on the “David Jason” type bike (with large basket container on the front – “Open all hours” TV comedy drama reference). London Brick Company paid the Manager to run it.
So you remember the time when Coronation Pit wasn’t there?
I was at school when the Bedford Brick Company dug the pit… we used to go and try to see the Manager’s daughters at Kempston Hardwick.”