Charles Doughty

Interview by Margaret Cooper in 2000 for the “Oxton Now & Then” publication.

Charles Doughty aged 90. Has lived in Oxton all his life and is still working with his son, Roger, at Doughtys, joiners and agricultural engineers.

“Well my first recollection of Oxton, which is when I was about just over three years old, it was the outbreak of World War One and the territorials were camping in the old brick yard on Windmill Hill. I remember my sister taking me up there to see them. I don’t know why I remember at such an early age as that but I do quite well remember it. Another memory I have when I was about five years old, my brother was born and I stood at the gate of the forge and old Miss Bonser a lady I didn’t cotton onto very much, she went by and said ‘I hear you’ve got a young brother this morning, that’ll put your nose out’ so I can see her now walking down, she always had a big white apron on in those days and I think she’d been to Wesley House. and she was going back home, she lived where Kathleen Crow lives now”.
“I remember that we had in those days a village road man that was responsible for keeping the village clean and if it snowed he used to have the footpaths cleaned in time for the children to go to school, his name was Coulby, down New Road”.
“I went to Oxton School until I was 11 and I was in the top class and the village school master said I ought to take a scholarship because he couldn’t teach me any more. I took a scholarship for Southwell Grammar school and had an education there for five years. I used to cycle everyday and it was a rough road in those days it wasn’t a lovely nice tarmac road like it is today, you can imagine. When I finished school, I came straight to work for my father. I was a wheelwright. We did the undertaking work and I was always involved in that, right from a boy”

“I used to play tennis. We had the tennis courts at the vicarage, the Reverend Hunt of course, it was no use to him. It was arranged if we mowed it and got the nets we played up there, and he used to come and watch us, it was company for him. My brother used to mow the court and we used to mark it out between us and we paid some subscription or other but nothing much, but it was quite a thing in those days. We always met some nice young ladies from Calverton.”
“I was in reserved occupation [during the War] because my brother and I were both engaged in agricultural work and it was essential and like my father in the First World War we got exemption you see. So we both joined the Home Guard, I was one of the first to join, I was in the LDV’s [Local Defence Volunteers] when all you had was an arm band with LDV on it and we eventually got uniforms and boots and great coats and everything. I had a marvellous rifle, a Canadian Ross, it was a .300 not a .303 like the Lee Enfield, it had slightly smaller bullets. I used to take great care of it and every time I fired it I used to boil it out with boiling water and do the correct thing with it. When we went on the range so many of them used to know how good my rifle was and [wanted to] borrow it because theirs wasn’t clean enough to fire. We once had firing practice at the shooting range at Epperstone, you know where that is on Gonalston Lane. I can’t remember what officer was in charge of us at the time but there was a chap, they called him Captain Wylie of Bayles, Wylie, Millers at Bestwood, happened to be there. A chap named George Coulby was quite outspoken and as he stood waiting to fire he was leaning on his rifle. This Captain Wylie said ‘Stand up my man’ and he turned round and said ‘If you’d done as much work as I have since last Sunday you’d want more than a bloody rifle to lean on’”.
“We used to go on patrol one night a week at Far Leys [on Oxton hill], and we were supposed to walk along the top of the hill in case any anyone came down or planes or parachute’s or anything, observing like. Perhaps eight of us would go and you did a two hour shift and then two more would come out. I heard a plane one evening and looked out. It was a Halifax and it came over with the engine on fire. I watched it go towards Farnsfield and I saw that the flames went from engine to the tail and then I saw the wing fall off and saw it go down. It had a Polish crew on it and they said some of them were killed before it hit the ground they’d been shot up badly like, and that was why it crashed, but it landed near Comb’s Farm. The pattern of work from me leaving school in ’27 until after the war didn’t change a great deal because it wasn’t until after the war that the combines came in. During the war they had the binders and threshing machines and we used to have to repair the binders and the threshing machines and that kind of thing. The grass mowers made hay, bailers didn’t come in until well into the War. I built the first bailer that came into Nottinghamshire during the War, it was an American New Holland Bailer and it was a big machine. It came in loads of packing cases, all in parts, and we had to build it with an instruction book and it worked”
“I had to learn my trade, of course it came second nature because I’d been brought up with it. I learned the trade on wheel wrighting, you know, repairing wheels and repairing farm carts and that sort of thing. It was just at the changeover between horses and tractors. I remember the first tractor coming into Oxton. There were two, Oxton Estate had them, one was Fordson and the other was a Clayton and the Clayton was on caterpillar tracks built in Lincoln from the pattern of the tanks they built, the same drive, the same transmission of the tanks you see. Everyone else had horses and my father’s job was of course to shoe horses.
“If you made wheels the blacksmiths made the hoops, if you made cart- shafts they made all the hooks and everything for that and just the same with every part, the blacksmith made the iron work and the joiners made the woodwork, that’s why they were a joint business, you see. In every village, the joiner was the undertaker, but of course it’s almost died out now. When my father took the business over from Tom Shipside, he took the undertaking part over. My father did his first funeral in, I think, January 1911 and we’ve got every record until I finished, so I’ve settled a good many arguments about who died when and where”.
“The work’ s changed entirely. Over the 1920’ s all the implements were horse-drawn and those people who decided to have a tractor needed their implements converting so that they had the shafts taken off so that they could pull them with a tractor. Then they started finding that the carts couldn’t hold enough and we started making trailers and do you know there’s one trailer in the village now that we made during the war, Desmond Palmer’s got it and its still in workable condition and it was made of green oak in the late 1940’s. Well them with wooden wheels were out so you’d got to look for other things to do. We made sheep troughs and hay racks and tumbrils and ladders, all those kind of things that we used on the farm”.
“The water came to the village in I should think about 1926. They made the reservoir at the top of Oxton Hill, they had the pumping station at Epperstone, pumped the water up there and then it fed down to Oxton. Prior to then the only water supply was springs and wells. Straight opposite [my house] was the village pump and all these houses up here used to get all the drinking water from there. There was a place to put your bucket [so that we] carried buckets of water from there home, all the drinking water we had. There was a pipe from it that went up into [Home Farmhouse] back kitchen and that was the only house that had water except the Hall”

“I should think it was before 1918 when I saw them putting ice in [the ice house] for the last time, but the ice house in the Hall grounds was then a proper building. It had a thatched roof and thick walls, they used to put layers of ice and then layers of straw and the ice used to stay there until [it was] needed in the house. The icehouse [has] been allowed to fall in disrepair. It was a round building, with a doorway into it, no windows and a conical thatched roof and it was really a feature. When I was a boy I can remember seeing it and knowing what it was for. In, I should imagine it would be about 1918, there was severe frost and the gardeners cut the ice up into blocks on the lake and the Turner [family] with horses and carts, carted the ice from the lake, out of that gate at the bottom of Blind Lane , then round by the road and in the front drive of the Hall and across the lawn and unloaded it at the icehouse. Inside the icehouse was a deep pit and they put the ice down in the pit and it was covered with straw and they had enough ice until the following winter”.

“The Turners always had Suffolk Punch horses, [they] didn’t have Shire horses. Nearly every other farm had Shire horses, but Turners always had Suffolk Punches. They’re a lighter horse and they’ve got no feather on their legs and they’re quicker moving, because [they] used to do a lot of roadwork for the Council hauling stone from the station for repairing the roads and of course if you had a quicker horse, you’d get an extra load in, in a day, that was the idea”.

” There was about twenty-five staff at the Hall when I can first remember. They all lived in, well there were two laundry maids that lived in the laundry, and then the lady’s maid, the housekeeper, and the cook, the housemaids, kitchen maids, scullery maid, they’d all live in and then the chauffeur he lived in the lodge house. There was a butler, footman, boot boy, they lived in and the groom he lived in and then the gardeners they lived in cottages in the village. I used to know [the head housemaid] quite well. They used to send for me if they’d got any broken panes of glass or sash cord or anything like that, carpets wanted taken up, curtains taken down. We used to do all those sorts of jobs you see. The first time I went I got lost, it was a biggish place you know, they had about fifteen front bedrooms and then all the staff bedrooms. There were two staircases, there was the main staircase then there was the servant’s staircase, what they call the back stairs like, lots of servant’s quarters. Then in the back hall there were all the bells, all the way along the wall, each with a name under and if a bell went the butler or whoever it was had to go and see if it was his job or if it was a front door, he’d have to put his coat on and go and answer it, and that’s how it worked. Then when Lord Charles Bentinck lived there, there weren’t above two or three staff “.

“I can remember [the laundry in the Hall grounds]. The laundry girls had stoves with ledges all round with irons on the ledges all the way round, so they had hot irons to do the ironing. The water supply came from the spring to the Hall then it was pumped to the roof with a gas engine”.

“When they built the Hall, all the area was landscaped, right up to the top of hundred acres [field]. When you stood in front of the Hall you thought you were in a park, there were iron fences that you couldn’t see with a naked eye, it looked just like one field right at the top of the hill. When you looked out of the window [towards] the pleasure ground, you could see the whole of the pleasure ground, they’d pulled all of the hedges out and made it a new big field. The only thing out of the main windows at the hall that you could see was the church tower. Blind Lane was sunk down like that so that [you] couldn’t see [it when] standing in front of the Hall. That was why I stuck out to still call it Blind Lane when they wanted to call it Southwell Road when I was on the parish council”.

“The original Main Street turned left at the church, between the church and Garden House, and went round the other side of the church yard and out at the end of the junction of New Road and Water Lane and through Water Lane and out at the Bridge Inn. That was the main road through Oxton, and the road from the church down to the Bridge Inn [that] they call now Main Street, we always called it Back Lane when we were children”.

“When we were schoolboys, Captain Sherbrooke was always keen to train cricketers and he used to leave word with my father that certain boys were to go down to Holly Lodge at a certain time for cricket practice. He used to be pretty thorough like showing us how to bat and bowl and he used to finish up by putting a sixpence on the wicket and getting us to bowl at him to see if we could get him out. If you were fortunate enough to get him out, you got the sixpence, but it wasn’t very often that sixpence was won”.

” There was a stonebreaker. The last stone-breaker was old Mr Burridge. It was the last job that was offered anybody to earn a few coppers and he used to have a pitch somewhere up towards Blidworth Lane end and they used to get the stones off the fields. He had an iron plate, and had a handle with a ring on it to locate the stone so that it didn’t all fly off, and then hit it with a stonebreak hammer to break it up into like sharp flints. He’d just place it on one side to make a heap”.

“I was on the Parish Council for twelve years all together. I was Secretary of the Church Council, I was a School Manager, and I helped with the Men’s Institute. My wife said, ‘I’m fed up with your always having something to do’. I said, ‘right I’ll resign the lot’, so I did. A fortnight after [I was] asked to be a Special Constable. So I joined the Police as a Special Constable and I was trained at the police headquarters and I was, I think, a Special Constable for about fifteen years because I got my police Long Service Medal”.

“I kept hens and a pig. My father kept a pig and of course my father never used to bother about the rations for his pig, he used to leave me to apply you see. So he was telling me one day, he said, ‘I’ve got nothing to feed me pig on, where’s me coupons’? ‘Oh’ I said, ‘I forgot all about applying for ’em’. ‘Well’ he said,’ what are you going to do about it, I’ve nothing to feed it on’. ‘Oh’, I said, ‘leave it to me’. I rang up the Ministry of Food and asked them why they hadn’t sent me, me monthly pig ration, and they apologised and sent me a double ration. You weren’t pinching anything; you were just sharpening the other fellow”.

” When there was an election years ago, we used to have to go to Epperstone to vote. We didn’t have a polling station here. I can remember as if it were yesterday, Old Captain Sherbrooke came in the shop and he said to Fred Whitelock, (I think it was before I was old enough to vote), ‘Whitelock’ he said, ‘I’ll send a car for you to go down to vote when you’ve finished work’. So he said, ‘yes Sir’. He said, ‘I expect you’ll consider our man’, and Fred Whitelock said, ‘in that case I’ll go on my bike and please meself’.

“There was a racecourse at Oxton. It was held up Fallows Lane [and was held] on Easter Monday. The paddock was on the top of the hill in Wood Close, that’s the field on the left hand side of Fallows Lane. People used to start coming in the middle of the morning by hundreds, bus loads, there used to be thousands, it was just like middle of London here. The only ones on horseback beside the riders would be the hunt servants. The huntsman and the whipper-in, in the red coats, [used] to organise the start and the finish of the races. It was a most gruelling course, [and] was, I should think, the best part of four miles. [The Prince of Wales] rode there in the 1920’s, yes oh yes I can remember seeing him ride there. It only stopped because of the war”.

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