|The Old Rectory 1893|
We lived at The Old Rectory on Holywell Lane between May 1979 and September 2017. We bought the house from Mr and Mrs Norman Foers who had themselves bought it from the Church Commissioners after it had stood empty for several years – not surprisingly, it had proved impossible to find a Rector prepared to take on the cost of running the house and garden on a meagre stipend.
Mr and Mrs Foers had lived at the house in considerable style with a full time chauffeur/gardener and housekeeper and a Rolls Royce in the old coach house near the road, but after the family firm (Joseph Peck and son of Rotherham) collapsed into bankruptcy they lost their income and by the time we saw it in November 1978 (on a miserable cold, foggy day) were reduced to living in five rooms. There was no central heating; an ancient boiler in the scullery heated the water; cooking was on an old Aga in the kitchen; the electrics were faulty; there was some woodworm and dry rot; the plumbing was suspect; the garden totally overgrown. Not for the faint-hearted!
We had already restored two houses so, despite having three children under five, took on the challenge, only to be confronted with a huge increase in mortgage interest rates almost immediately, which increased from 9 to 15%!
It became a labour of love to restore the house over 30 years, taking a great deal of our energy and all our income, plus lots of hands-on hard work. It helped considerably that Alan became an extremely successful criminal law barrister, becoming a Q.C. and eventually the Senior Judge in Sheffield, and that over the years, we employed good and loyal local builders, plumbers, electricians, decorator, a gardener and housekeeper.
Our youngest son was born in our bedroom in September 1980; I was running the village Parent and Toddler group at the house at the time and the weekly, or in the summer twice weekly, morning sessions were held at Sally Woffinden’s house, the Nailor’s Cottage on the High Street, while I had a fortnight off!
|The Wesleyan Chapel|
The playgroup was held in the basement area of the old Methodist Chapel on Austwood Lane in unsuitable conditions which needed to be remedied.During our first week in our new home I had attended a Playgroup meeting at the Red Lion when I had joined the committee, become its Chairman and agreed to start a Parent and Toddler group at home once our packing cases were emptied, heating installed, the house rewired and some carpets down.
Having had a great deal of training with the Pre-School Playgroups Association in Sheffield, I was pretty horrified at what I saw in Braithwell. New regulations had been brought in by the Government to govern the running of these voluntary, charitable establishments and I was acutely aware that we needed new premises, and fast. There was nowhere else in the village at the time which Social Services in Doncaster would begin to consider as safe and suitable for holding a playgroup. So we were allowed to soldier on at the old Chapel while a solution was sought.
Meanwhile Alan had been asked by our neighbour Joyce Milnes to join, and later became Chairman of, the committee which was in charge of providing a Playing Field for the village. The field had been bought, and then everything stalled because of lack of funds and lack of success in grant applications. (for the story of the Playing Field, listen to the recording with Christine, Alan, John Parkes and Derek Duffield in the Oral Archive.)
So we both found ourselves chairing Committees of significant local organisations within a short period of arriving in a village where we knew no-one! Jumping in at the deep end like this meant we soon had a good group of friends around us, many still friends to this day. It was agreed that the Playgroup and Toddler Groups could have a PortaCabin style building on the Playing Field once toilets had been built, electricity and water laid on, the driveway and the foundations laid – all by local volunteers. So both our organisations needed to throw themselves into raising money as fast as possible. One of the ideas, which proved extremely successful, was to hold Garden Parties at our house.
The first was held the year before the Playing Field was opened in 1982 and they continued for several years thereafter. Peter and Rita Dunstan were marvellous coming up with ideas and contacts to help us. The Playgroup organized a Sponsored Toddle on the driveway, a novel idea at the time which captured families’ imaginations and raised several hundred pounds. There was a tractor pulling a short ‘train’ of open ‘carriages’ round the garden, in and out of the trees; pony rides; games and stalls of various kinds; a Fancy Dress Competition; a large raffle of the kind only Braithwell can put on!; a band; displays of Morris and Clog dancing and later, Gillian Banks School of Dancing.
The Strawberry Teas were very much Rita’s forte; she, Jackie Hawksworth, Sheila Coggan, Jenny Parkes and many more made scones and buns by the hundred; Alan took our children and others to pick umpteen pounds of strawberries at Roche Abbey and later at Hellaby, and these were then hulled and washed. We decided these teas were going to be SPECIAL; the tables and chairs kept and delivered by Arnold Pawson were cleaned and then decked with cheerful strawberry-themed tablecloths and flower arrangements done by my Mum using flowers from our garden; the waitresses, from Edlington School, wore neat black and white and attractive aprons. All teas were waitress served on the village china plates, cups and saucers, while people could watch the dancing or listen to Maltby Miners’ Welfare Band.
Looking at the photographs again after so many years, I am staggered at the hundreds of people who attended these events and clearly enjoyed them. Tens of thousands of pounds were raised which ensured the village had its Playing Field, and our Portacabin was used as the meeting point not just for the early years groups but as the hub of all activities held on the Field.
We found the secret of success was to provide good quality at a reasonable, affordable price, and to keep having innovative ideas to keep people coming back : a China Breaking stall proved very popular one year for which we all collected chipped plates etc over a period of months; two years running the Territorial Army in Doncaster erected and manned an Assault Course; someone knew people who would come appropriately dressed in period costume with a Penny Farthing; a 1950’s ice-cream van; a display of Birds of Prey; even a sow with her piglets where a prize was given for guessing the number of piglets she had produced in her lifetime!
Our lives moved on, our four children were growing up and we both had ailing parents living some distance away. A few years elapsed when no Garden Parties were held. Then Alan became Scout Leader and Group Scout Leader of the Maltby Bede Group which rapidly expanded into a large Scout Group, Venture Scouts, two Cub Groups and Beavers. Our focus turned to raising money for that group and for St James’ Church in Braithwell. At this point the invaluable work done for these events by Joan Addenbrooke and her team ensured our Cream Teas were always very successful.
Later still, after both having very successful but demanding careers, we decided to raise money for the local Church and for the recently opened Bluebell Wood Hospice for Children. All of these events were successful, even when the weather was poor! I started giving tours of the garden, which by this time was looking pretty splendid, and eventually we held Open Garden events which were also popular. In total, well over £50,000 must have been raised and people came back again and again.
Throughout this time we had depended on being able to use the car park of the Village Club further along Holywell Lane. After it closed it was purchased by the owner of D.C.Interiors in Maltby, Bill Powney, who allowed us to use the site for parking until he started to build the large houses which are now on Stonecroft Mews. It was at that point that we could no longer host such events; it simply was not safe to have cars parked along the Lane.
Once I retired aged 61 I began hosting the monthly Coffee Morning for the Church which had been started by Myra and Eddie Penistone in the Master’s House, and we started a new venture, the ‘Fizz, Food and Fun’ evenings early in the New Year, raising money again for the Church, with a donation from the proceeds made to Bluebell Wood. We thought we could cram 70 people at most into our house for the food, drinks, and a sing-song to Roger Greenwood’s excellent piano playing in our dining room, but Joan had soon sold all those tickets and was eager to slip in a few more people! Eventually we were hosting 110. Thanks to all the drinks and food being donated, we raised several thousand pounds at each of these events, held each January until we left the village in September 2017.
In conclusion, this seems a description which is just the tip of the iceberg and fails to note all the months of hard work which went into planning and preparing each event; the marvellous support we had from all those who helped and worked with us to make them a success; and the loyalty and friendship of those who came and, over the years, became friends and often helpers in their turn.
Do look at the photographs; you may see yourself or your friends and relatives there.
Christine Goldsack. May 2020.