This article was originally written for the Moulton and District Newsround, which was published between 1973 and 1985. I have made some slight changes to the original text. H.J. Child was a natural writer, endowed with a good memory, his memories give a vivid picture of life at the Rectory, the Church, the Village and an insight into his family life. He died before I became Village Recorder, I would have loved to have met him.
John Gunson, Moulton Village Recorder, 22nd of March 2000.
It was during the winter of 1915/16 that I , at the age of seven years, left Cambridge with my Mother, Father, three sisters and one brother. We had for several years lived in a relatively small house and garden, and were changing it for a very spacious Rectory at Moulton, now I believe known as the Priory. One thing remains uppermost in my memory of that first winter - the freezing cold with all its complications and discomforts.
The plumbing of the Rectory was, to say the least, extremely primitive. I can still picture our first look at the 'boiler house' which was unfortunately situated quite outside the main building, in a 'yard' open to the elements except for a corrugated roof extending halfway over the 'yard', allowing rain, snow, and frost to enter at leisure. To make matters worse, the tall cylindrical hot water tank stood by the side of the boiler, naked and unlagged. The bitter weather had done its worst and I remember the rivets and joints of that tank split and distorted. We had a replacement tank fitted, but the boiler had a prodigious appetite and as its only function was to heat the bath water, could not be permanently in use.
There were some bitterly cold nights that winter, and it was not long before we found the frost had done its dirty work again. This made us realise that the apparatus would never function in its present position, so we had fitted a more up-to-date system in the scullery and it was at this time that I have my first recollections of a man who, for the whole time we lived in Moulton was what today we would look on as a veritable Barry Bucknell. His name was Mr Jimmy Poulter. Whenever anything went wrong with the plumbing, or anything else for that matter (and it often did) we sent for Jimmy.
It is curious how certain things remain in the back of one's mind. I remember a card attached to our new boiler which said; "if the hot water fails to run from the hot tap, or any strange noises are heard, set out the fire immediately and notify Simpsons of Newmarket". With pipes large and small, running round that cold house here, there, and everywhere it was small wonder that we were continually in trouble and Mr Jimmy Poulter would be sent for, would scratch his head if there was any problem, and mutter "most mysterious. But he always solved our troubles, and was affectionately known to the youngest of us as "Mr Most Mysterious". Many a time he mended burst pipes with just a combination of red lead, sacking and a length of string to wind round the pipe. And it worked ! Next to the scullery was an old-fashioned cooking stove, black-leaded and polished every day.
It was in front of this stove, in a hip bath, protected from some of the draughts by blankets draped over a clothes-horse that I had my weekly bath, rather than shiver upstairs in the very large, unheated bathroom.
This to those fortunate enough to live under modern conditions will probably seem unreal, but with central heating for the very few, double-glazing many years ahead, and coal fires only in the kitchen and in one of the three living rooms currently in use, the remainder of the house with its six bedrooms, long, long corridors, and large windows was uncomfortable to say the least. My mother used to say that it took her over thirty steps to get food from the kitchen to the dining room, and unless it was 'piping hot' on leaving the oven it could be cold before it reached one's mouth.
© HJ Child
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