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  • Bampton and District Local History Society

    Burnbanks project

    Interview with Margaret Pearson

    21st January 2005

    AJ:If you could just say your name?
    MP:Margaret Pearson.
    AJ:And if you could just tell us the place of your birth?
    MP:Bolton, Lancashire.
    AJ:So where did you live before you moved to Burnbanks?
    MP:In college, at Ambleside.
    AJ:And before that you lived in Bolton?
    MP:And before that I lived in Bolton.
    AJ:So can you tell us when you came to live at Burnbanks, the house number and why you came to live there.
    MP:It would be October 1970. Number 62 Burnbanks. And I came to live there because I was appointed teacher at the school and in those days the governors of the school found it quite difficult to attract because of accommodation problems and so they reserved a house at Burnbanks for the infant teacher. And so I was offered to go and live there when I became the teacher.
    AJ:And when you got there what were your first impressions of the place?
    MP:Well it was very strange really, because I wasn?t what you would call a country person. I?d always been, or I?d always thought that I?d been a townie and living in Ambleside was quite a shock to the system to start with but then when I moved to Burnbanks I really thought I was in a different world altogether and it took quite a long time really. I have to say, we were made to feel very welcome by the people already living there and we went on over the years to make some very firm and long-lasting friendships with people. But it was very very strange, it was very quiet, no traffic about and it did take a bit of getting used to really to start with.
    AJ:So what were the buildings like at the time you moved there?
    MP:Oh, prefabs and they looked a little bit short of paint and that sort of thing on the outside. I think I made a bit of a fuss about the outside paint! We decorated inside and I think we were sort of rather radical in our interior decoration at the time! Because it seemed to be quite different to everybody else?s but it was a good house. It was quite cold, it took a lot of heating ? it did cost us quite a lot with oil-fired radiators and so on to heat the house and we had a coal fire. It did take a bit of getting used to as it was quite on the chilly side because there wasn?t a lot of insulation but it was all right and we soon got used to it really.
    AJ:Who paid for decorations inside and out or any improvements that were needed?
    MP:We paid for indoor and North West Water, as it was then, paid for the outdoor decoration.
    AJ:And what about things like the traffic in the village and the condition of the roads?
    MP:It was quite good, I mean from what I can remember. But, this is the trouble I mean I wonder how my memory is; it was a long time ago? From what I can remember, the road was quite good. We were on the back road and the back road was rather bumpier than the bottom road, the bottom road I think was quite well paved but I think ours was quite rugged in some places and where we parked, we parked beside the gate, we just had one car when we first went there and we had to park outside and it was a bit of a struggle sometimes for other vehicles to get past, you know. I remember, one day the dustbin van came up and having such a struggle, it keeled over and they had to get rescue vehicles out to pull the refuse van off the siding ? and that was really because our car was parked there!
    AJ:Was there much traffic around (apart from the refuse van!)?
    MP:It would mainly be works traffic - there was quite a lot of works traffic then because of course it was a working yard, so there were vehicles of all types really. They?d be backwards and forwards ? landrovers and smaller vans and large ones ? you know it was quite a busy village really in terms of transport. And all the houses had at least one car, I would think. There wasn?t a lot of visitors I don?t think, just really family of people who lived there. So mainly works traffic I would think.
    AJ:And what about condition of the general land around there and the wildlife that you saw?
    MP:Well we had all sorts come into our back garden! We had badgers came in, and deer, a lot of birds, we had glow worms in the garden ? I remember John getting an article printed in the Herald because he?d written in to talk about the glow worms lighting up the steps ? we had an enormous number of steps up to our house and you?d see it lit up ? it was like a runway with glow worms at each side of the steps! There was quite a lot of wildlife and one day, we were just talking about this last night, I?d left a chicken that I was going to cook because it had been defrosting, I?d left it in the kitchen and the kitchen window was open because it was quite steamy and I came through to the kitchen to put this chicken in the oven - it must have been a Sunday I should think - and the chicken wasn?t there and I went through and accused John of hiding this chicken. I said ?where?s my chicken?? and he said ? I don?t know what you are talking about!? However in the end we went on a search and in the end, this chicken ? this raw chicken ? we found it half way up the garden, half eaten!! So we don?t know whether it was a fox or just a hungry cat or what it was but it was obviously something out there that took a liking to the chicken before it got cooked! But we did see a whole range of animals and birds.
    AJ:And was the land around in good condition ? was it maintained?
    MP:Yes it was really, yes I think it was, because you know at the bottom of our gate would be the telephone box and there was that area there. You see it was used a lot because there were a lot of people living on the back road and people would walk up and down there. It wasn?t overgrown or anything - it was quite easy to get around. From what I can remember it all seemed to be quite well maintained and the gardens were looked after mainly.
    AJ:So in your house, who lived there during your time there?
    MP:Well, John and I were just newly married, because we were married in October 1970, so that was our first house. And Helen was born in September ?73, so we just lived on our own until she was born and my Mum and Dad came up quite often from Bolton. John?s parents lived locally, they lived at Shap at the time, they had a café at Shap and he worked there with them for quite a while. So there were just the three of us there when Helen came, until we moved in to Penrith in February ?77 it would be, because we felt that we ought to get into the housing market really and buy a property, and that was the only thing, we were quite sorry to leave but we felt that was what we needed to do at the time.
    AJ:Can you tell us a bit about your house ? what it was like inside ? the rooms, what the facilities were and how you cooked and how you heated the house?
    MP:Right, so you would walk in through the front door straight into the lounge, which had an open fireplace and then leading from there would be all the other rooms in the house. So as you stood with your back to the front door, there would be a bedroom on the right which became the nursery and the bedroom on the left which was our room and out of there you would go into the passage at the back of the house that a third room led off to the right and then there would be the pantry, the walk-in pantry which would be very useful and then next to the pantry would be ? all of these lead off from that passage way at the back ? then there was the bathroom which was a really peculiar shape ? it was cut across the corner, it was very odd shape ? I?d never seen a bathroom like that before and it was very cold ? you wouldn?t linger in there. And at the end of the passage was the kitchen and I think we would?ve had an electric cooker. At that time when we were first married, we didn?t have that much money because I?d just come out of college, and this was my first job and John was working with his parents and didn?t really get a wage, you know he just got things as and when. So we bought quite a lot of our furniture from Shap, there was a little ? I can?t remember the name ? this man had a little shop there and sold all manner of bric-a-brac and things and quite a lot of things came from there. In fact this lamp here came from there and we had orange boxes that I painted you know and that sort of thing in our lounge and we had furniture that we had been given from various family. But at that time it was traditional I think to buy electrical goods through the electricity board and you would buy cookers and heaters and that sort of thing. You would buy them and then pay for them on your electricity bill at the end of every quarter or whatever it was, you?d pay a bit off and that?s what we did. Our carpets all came from a cheap carpet warehouse in Bolton and my mum was bringing some up the motorway and my dad wasn?t terribly well at the time and she had these carpets rolled up in the back of the car and was stopped by the police and asked about them and where she was going with them and what she was doing ? and she was bringing them to Burnbanks. So really it was quite a ? we managed on very little shall we say to start with. Oh, the last little bit there was a sort of storage place, off the kitchen and a separate toilet there and that would lead out through the back door into the garden. That was the main accommodation there.
    AJ:In your bathroom ? in which you didn?t linger! ? What was actually in there?
    MP:A bath and a washbasin ? that was all. There wasn?t a shower. I think that was it ? frosted windows.
    AJ:And heating?..
    MP:We had an open fire, but it didn?t heat any radiators or anything. I don?t think it heated the water, I don?t think there was a back boiler in it ? no I?m sure there was just an open fire and so we would have an immersion heater... how did we heat the water? - it must have been an immersion heater, I?m sure we didn?t have a back boiler. And then we had oil-fired plug-in radiators in each of the rooms as back up - particularly in the bedrooms because they were very cold. It was just something we just got used to I suppose over time.
    AJ:Where did you keep the fuel?
    MP:There was a little coal ? not a shed but a bunker behind the house.
    AJ:Can you tell us something about how things happened in your home ? like who did the housework and chores and if you had a routine?
    MP:Yes well I did most of the housework initially. John was out a lot because he had a lot of sort of part time jobs ? he worked with his parents in the café and he also was a school bus driver from Simpson?s garage ? he drove one of their buses and he was a postie in Shap as well ? walking up into Oddendale and places up there and he did something else as well ? oh he was a part time fireman, that?s right, at the fire station. And then shortly after that he started working at the ambulance station, which meant that he was working shifts so it meant that he did quite a bit. I mean, he still does ? he has always done a lot round the house for which I was very grateful. And then I had Helen and I only actually had six weeks off school, maternity leave, because I had the first half of the autumn term off. I think I?d worked until the end of the summer term in ?73 and then I would have half a term off and go back after that. At that time, we lived behind Sylvia and George Hindmarch and Sylvia?s mother in law lived opposite there and round about that time Sylvia?s father in law died and we asked Nana, every body called her Nana, Nana Hindmarch, she started helping out a little bit with Helen and she started doing some work in the house, some housework for me, because I did find it quite challenging to have a husband on shifts and a baby and a full time job and all the rest of it. So she used to come, twice a week, and dust round and if John was at home because he?d been working night shift she would take Helen off to her house and they?d play down there and have a walk out and that was something that Helen has never forgotten ? going to Nana Hindmarch?s and having lemon cheese on bread and she had this special little knife, this tiny tiny knife about 2 inches long with a flat blade and she would spread her lemon cheese. It?s funny because she never ate it at home ? it was always something special for eating at Nana?s house.
    AJ:Generally speaking when you were eating at home which room did you eat in?
    MP:Oh we ate in the lounge on our knees ? we had our meal on our knees in front of the fire because it was the only place that we could really keep warm enough. I can remember getting a bout of chilblains because I sat far too close to the fire. I really wasn?t used to an open fire, well I had been when I?d been at Bolton, but when I?d been at college I hadn?t and I?d sort of forgotten that you shouldn?t be sitting so close. But that?s what we did because it was one way of enjoying your meal and being warm at the same time.
    AJ:Can you tell us about what sort of entertainments you had at home in terms of radio, record players?
    MP:We had radio, we had television; we would have a record player ? yes I think we still used records then and tapes ? I think probably cassette tapes were probably just starting then, I can?t actually remember when they came in, but I think we would have tapes. But we certainly had ordinary records; John and I both had our own collection and when we got married we had to sift through them and we found we had duplicated a lot so we seemed to have had the same sort of taste in music and we got rid of and selected out things that we both had. But that would be about it.
    AJ:And you had a garden?
    MP:We had a big garden, yes it was huge: huge garden in the front and in the back. It wasn?t a sort of set piece garden it was more of a wild garden. The back ? I mean John used to cut the grass but that was about it because it was very bumpy and lumpy and it was a bit like looking at the fell ? there weren?t any ?made gardens? really, in the back there. At the front, again, there were a lot of things growing in there, when we went. We had this massive massive show of poppies, big huge red poppies and I think we planted, I think he tried to put some potatoes in at one point and was digging and we had had quite a bit of help from various friends from work that had come to help him and he was trying to clear a bit where he thought he would go self sufficient and grow some vegetables so he would get this rock out and this friend would come to help him to dig this rock so they could clear a bit of space ? and three hours later they were still digging ? it was like an iceberg, the very very tip was there at the top and by the time they?d got down, you know, it took up nearly half the garden so I think they gave up on that idea. And then another day, he was digging in a different part of the garden and he got to a tree root and thought he would just move this bit of tree root but it turned out it was a cable, I don?t know if it was water or electricity but it was just buried in the garden without any sort of warning. So we did have a few surprises like that, but he did try to grow a few vegetables. But again I mean because the house was set up high and the garden was sort of stepped, it hadn?t ever been laid out specifically as a garden we just tried to keep it neat and enjoy what came in. We did put quite a few shrubs in and larger bushes and that sort of thing but we didn?t have a lot of flowers. But it was very pleasant and a very nice outlook for us, because we were quite high up and not overlooked ourselves, which was quite nice.
    AJ:Apart from decoration, were any improvements done to the house when you were there?
    MP:Ummmm.. I don?t think so... We had an airing cupboard that was way up high on the right hand side of the fire place in the lounge and we never did get something that was a bit more accessible, you know you had to climb up ladders to get in it. So we didn?t use it very much. I don?t think so, no?
    AJ:Do you remember what the rent was?
    MP:Oh it was very very low and we were trying to decide this morning actually, how much we paid, but it was minimal ? it was only a few shillings because I can remember when we had decided we were going to buy a property and we?d found one that we wanted to buy in Penrith, we went to the building society or the bank and we had to fill this form in and state your outgoings and so we filled it all in and we got a phone call when we got home saying you?ve filled this in wrong because you?ve only put a weeks rent in here and we wanted a monthly rent ? and it was actually the monthly rent we?d put in but it was so low that it was amazing but I can?t remember just how much it was. But I know it was very little.
    AJ:So you had Helen when you were there and you talked about her going to Nana?s but where else did she play and did she play with other children?
    MP:Yes she did, I mean, she played out on the front as they called it on the front of Sylvia?s house and in front of the garages and she would play there. I?m trying to think, you see she wasn?t that old when we went to Penrith, she would only probably be five when we went to Penrith so when we were at Burnbanks she tended to be more in the company of at least one adult rather than actually going out to play with a lot of children. I mean, she would play outside when there were other children out there but there would be somebody with her and it would tend to be I think in Nana?s garden or outside her house if she was with her. Or in our garden, children would come into our garden and play; because she was still quite small when we moved into town.
    AJ:So when you were there, the school was in Bampton as it is now?
    MP:Yes, and there would be ? Mr Aynsley was the head then, there would be when I first came to Bampton there would be about 36 children in the school then. I think 16 of them would be infants and 20 of them would be juniors. And he was here another seven years; yes, I would work with him another seven years before he retired.
    AJ:And were there many children came from Burnbanks?
    MP:There were quite a number yes and in fact North West Water paid for a taxi ? Thomas Thompson ran that taxi and Joyce ? now then, but they didn?t do it all the time. I think it would be Bob Buckle perhaps before that, I don?t know, I think my memory is letting me down. But there were I would think altogether counting the secondary age children there would be probably 12 or 16, I would think, at that time living up there.
    AJ:What was the relationship like between the Burnbanks children and the Bampton children?
    MP:I think it was all right. I think there would only be difficulties in the same way there was with any children, I don?t think that there was any difference made because they were from Burnbanks. Everybody seemed to get on all right and mix with everybody.
    AJ:Can you just tell us what the school was like then in terms of the buildings, toilets, layout of the furniture within the school?
    MP:Right, we had - the infant classroom was where it is now and the hall and the entrance porch but when I first came the entrance porch had huge great poles, iron poles in it, that we had taken out. It was where the old cloakrooms had been and there had been very little room in there really because they had had I think cages to put shoes in and underneath but they had been removed. Then the canteen was there and Sylvia was the cook in the canteen when I came, so she made all the meals, planned all the menus and did the buying and made the meals and always made meals that children enjoyed and would eat. We didn?t have the toilet block on then because we did have the old outside toilets, which were not very spicy really.

    The stone building I don?t think has changed at all, it?s just the same because there had been originally two stoves in the stone building but that had a coke boiler, I think where the boiler house is now but there wasn?t actually a fire in the classroom, you know it just heated the radiators. And it was the same behind the wooden building; there was a coke house and a boiler house in there. Tommy Brennand used to come along two or three times a day to school and stoke this boiler and Mr Aynsley would do it occasionally as well. He probably did it at lunchtime or something and put a pile of coke on the fire. The infant classroom was awful - it was so cold sometimes it was unbelievable. I can remember trying to make a point and putting a thermometer in the classroom and there were some days when it didn?t get above 45. It was cold! And I mean it wouldn?t be able to happen, you wouldn?t be able to run a school like that now. But there were some days when it was absolutely perishing. So we had these old outside toilets that used to block regularly, the pipes go under the school yard and into the garden at the back which used to be part of the school house which now is part of the school and along through our back garden over into the septic tank which was beyond our garden: and these pipes were old clay things and they used to block regularly and fall to bits. Tommy Brennand used to come along every Friday afternoon regular as clockwork and lift the manhole that was outside the girls toilets and he would lift the manhole and get this scoop ? and would scoop all the muck out ? regularly every Friday ? just to keep it going and give it a good rodding and then he?d toddle off back again home. So he kept them going for a long long time, long after they should have been condemned but he was very very conscientious at keeping everything running as best he could.

    AJ:Good for him. Laughter
    AJ:Right, lets move on a bit, back to Burnbanks ? what were the facilities in Burnbanks, were there any? Any shops?
    MP:No shops. There were the workshops and the office for North West Water but nothing else. Quite a bit later on I think some of the younger mums converted one of the houses that wasn?t being used into a little playgroup, I suppose it was, where they would collect some toys and just do their own thing really and just have a meeting place away from their houses. But that?s all I can remember really that there was.
    AJ:And was there still evidence of the old buildings having been there, like the mission hall?
    MP:Umm, not that I?m aware of.
    AJ:So where did you go for facilities?
    MP:Penrith really. Yes because John worked in Penrith and we only had one car for quite a while and if he was starting- he often had to start work at 8 o?clock on Saturday morning and take my laundry and go to the launderette ? I spent many a happy hour in the launderette at Penrith. I?d do my washing and get it dry and then I would come back home to put the washing away and then I would probably go back in later on to do some shopping and pick him up from work; we had to sort of work it like that really. His mum and dad had a café at Shap as I said so I?d quite often go up there and sometimes gave them a hand on a Saturday or in the holidays.
    AJ:What was John working as then?
    MP:He had started as an ambulance man.
    AJ:Do you remember what the local bus service was like?
    MP:I don?t think there was one. No I don?t think there was, I might be wrong. I certainly never used one ? I think people really relied on cars.
    AJ:So was there anything socially went on at Burnbanks itself?
    MP:Ummm, no, people tended to either be out at work or be in their own homes I think. They would come to Bampton for social things but there wasn?t much really. I suppose some would go to each other?s houses but no I think it tended to be that people were either at home or at work or at something at Bampton.
    AJ:And while you were there did you go to church or chapel?
    MP:I went to church and there were quite a lot of people did go to chapel and then it sort of started to tail off, I suppose because the older ones stopped going or moved away or whatever. I did go to church but I didn?t go terribly regularly.
    AJ:And was that in Bampton?
    MP:That was in Bampton yes.
    AJ:And were there any particular social activities connected with the church?
    MP:There would be the autumn fare and the harvest festival was quite well supported and the Remembrance Day. I think those were the main ? oh and Christmas of course and Easter, those were the times the church was really quite full. Funerals, nearly always funerals, of local people attracted a full church. And a lot of local people, I think it was more usual then to be buried in the churchyard rather than being cremated. It probably tends to be about half and half now but certainly at that time I think it was more usual to be buried here.
    AJ:Do you remember who the vicar was at that time?
    MP:It was Canon German when I first came and when he left it would be Anthony Grann and then after Anthony it would be Chris Edmondson, no it would be John Berry, it would be John Berry and then Chris Edmondson.
    AJ:But when you were at Burnbanks it would be those first two you mentioned?
    AJ:So the social life that went on at Bampton at that time, when you were in Burnbanks, what do you remember of that?
    MP:I don?t remember being? I ran a youth club for a while when we lived at Burnbanks before, I think I gave it up when we moved into town. We would run a youth club on a Thursday night, John and I, we did that for quite a long while. There were a lot of children about then, I think a lot came from Shap and it seemed to be very busy and I remember thirty plus children some nights. I was on the parish council for a while I think. There was a ladies? group that I wasn?t actually involved in, I mean I wasn?t involved in a terrific amount because when I had Helen and working full time and John often out on shifts. So I don?t really remember any more.
    AJ:So when you were living at Burnbanks, about how many people were living there at that time?
    MP:I think most of the houses were occupied. I?m just trying to think, I don?t think there were any empty ones I think all of them were lived in. There was one empty one but that was taken over by the RSPB for their workforce. And certainly, no I can?t think of an empty one at all. It really was quite a thriving place.
    AJ:So what was the spirit like? Did it have a sort of community spirit to it?
    MP:Yes I think it did. I mean it didn?t have a community meeting place so I suppose that was difficult but I mean everybody seemed to get along well together. So I always felt very welcome. I know there was this thing about off comers having to live there so long before they felt at home but we never felt like that. We always felt at home right from the start and we always felt as if, you know, we knew everybody and we?d have a chat with anybody that we saw and there was never a lack of community spirit even though there wasn?t a sort of centre really to the village.
    AJ:So where did most people come from? I mean you came from outside?
    MP:Most people I think were fairly local or local to Cumbria anyway. There were some who came, I can remember a family who came from Blackpool way and another one from, there were several from Lancashire or maybe round about Manchester that sort of environ, perhaps Dad coming to work there and then the family moving up; there was quite a lot of movement in and out but as one family went another would come.
    AJ:So who did most of these people work for?
    MP:For North West Water, yes I think all of them did.
    AJ:So it was a big workforce?
    MP:Oh yes it was a huge workforce. And some of the workforce were transported to other places to work, I mean they weren?t just working at the dam or up by the lake. A lot of people, like George Hindmarch would be out on the fells doing different things. But a lot of them were taken to Watchgate and Thirlmere and working in the forests. But I would think that we were quite unusual in that neither of us worked for North West Water. And I think we were probably the only family that didn?t ? I think everybody else would have some sort of a connection with working for the waterworks.
    AJ:So when people moved away it was generally that their work moved them away.
    MP:Yes, yes ? some people left North West Water but some were just transferred within the group.
    AJ:So it wasn?t lack of work?
    MP:No no ? it was much much later: I think it was long after we?d left there that they started to downsize a bit you know in terms of the workforce. But when we lived there it was a huge employer.
    AJ:I mean you talked yourself of being a townie ? were there other people who also had that sort of adjustment.
    MP:I don?t think there was as many because they all tended to be fairly local and you know even if they were from Shap or somewhere it wasn?t quite the same you know as coming from a big town. I mean I didn?t find it difficult, I really enjoyed it and we were really sorry to leave and it was only because we felt we were looking to buy a house that we left - it wasn?t for any other reason than that. I think that for most other people, there would be some coming from Blackburn, Blackpool, they didn?t tend to stay terribly long but I think it was because of the nature of the job really rather than you know not wanting to live there.
    AJ:What do you think about Burnbanks now?
    MP:Well, I?ve not been up very much, you know, since all this building has been going on. We did go up, we went up before they actually started the project because I take the grandchildren, I have two grandchildren, and I take them to see Sylvia sometimes and we did go up one day: and it was a nice day and we had a walk up to our house and I was showing my grandson our house and the bedroom that his mummy had had when she was a little girl ? he was absolutely fascinated. But it was very sad because it was all overgrown and I didn?t really like it, you know, it wasn?t the place that I remembered ? it seemed a lot smaller than we remembered. I always had this vision, as I said, we had these huge number of steps up to the house and you were always aware of it being a big space really with a lot of room to be moving around in. And when we went up there on that particular day it all looked like it had shrunk and that the steps were covered in?I mean you couldn?t see them and you had to pick your way very carefully and it just seemed very sad really but it was not the same place. I mean we?ve always gone to Sylvia?s house and that?s not really changed, you know, because she has always kept it much the same and we?ve always been made very welcome there and so on but actually venturing on to the back road and seeing what used to be ? it just seemed so odd and it didn?t look anything like it was, what we remembered. So, I think we are probably not that keen really on it - what it will be like when its finished I don?t know ? we might well go back and have a look then. But no, that was a particularly happy time in our lives really and it was a time before both sets of our parents got rather more immobile and so on and it was a very happy time and we made the most of it all when we were there.
    AJ:Anything else you want to add about your experience at Burnbanks, anything you don?t feel we?ve talked about?
    MP:No, I don?t think so, I mean I just, it was just a very special part of our lives, I mean we loved it and I grew I suppose less like a townie ? I still like to go back to the town you know, I mean I used to take Helen, John very rarely came with us because he was often working, but I used to take Helen every half term and every end of term, we?d go back to the big town and so on. But we were always glad to come home again. And we were very sad to leave but it was just one of those things that we had to do.
    AJ:Well thank you very much indeed.
    MP:Thank you.

    Interviewer: Alison Jones

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