Elsie Cooper and Percy Cooper

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

Elsie Cooper and Percy Cooper.
Elsie married Percy’s brother, Jim. Both live in Oxton, both are widowed.


[Percy] “[was born in 1925 in Sandy Lane]. We moved into the Bothy [near the Hall] in 1929, I was 4 years old. We lived there [until] the War broke out in 1939. We lived in six different houses [before] we came to live where [I am] now [Main Street]. Because I got married late in life, I stayed with my mother and then my mother died, and then I came with my sister Mary here. Eventually I got engaged when I met Marjorie [next door], that was 1972, I think. I was about 47 when I got married, because I was waiting for the right lady to come along. I can remember her [Marjorie] coming into the village because when Lord Charles took the Hall her mother came [to] cook and clean and everything. Marjorie was the only child. Then the war broke out and her father got called up in the army. They took some evacuees in, I think there were as many as eight girls in the Hall from Southend and Sheffield. Soon after the War broke out we had a scarlet fever epidemic in the village and I went to the isolation hospital at Southwell; Elsie was in the [adjacent] hospital expecting Alan, that was September 1939”.

{Elsie] “I was born at Edingley at Bessinger Farm. Then my dad bought Brockley Farm, Edingley. I was going to Farnsfield school in those days, walking to Farnsfield School from Edingley, we used to go across the fields. Then there was someone came demonstrating dairy work into the village, and I got a scholarship to go to the Midland Agricultural College, and I went there [at ] about 15. We made stilton, cheddar and cheshire and another type of cheese as well. You used to have to go down into the cheese press rooms and turn the cheeses you see and skim them. I was at home for so long and then I got this job down at Sandringham in Norfolk with the King and Queen. I was in the lodgings with the head dairy maid there.[Elizabeth and Margaret] were the princesses then yes and I shook hands with their mother and dad as they were walking through the yard with them. Then I came home, and then old Mr Billy Flowers, he wanted a house keeper up at Moorfield Farm. Mum and dad couldn’t afford to keep me at home because I was the oldest of eight, [so] I took that job on, looking after two men and of course Jim [husband to be, and Percy’s brother] was one of them. I was 23 when I got married. He was a farm worker, general, horses and tractors and all the lot really. We married in Oxton Church and we lived up at the Fallows Farm. We used to come down to the Chapel in those days, Jim and I did”.

[Percy] “I worked at the Grange Farm combined with the Fallows Farm where Elsie and Jim lived and I used to go in for meals. Jim [also worked at] Grange Farm. Jim was there before [me]. Jim started in 1937, and I started in 1940. We were doing different jobs. [Eventually I came to] Lilac Farm, just down here [near the Bridge Inn]. [The farm there had a big herd of cattle and] I looked after them. They used to have sheep, pigs as well. Milk was delivered around the village, Turners used to deliver it around the top end and [we] used to deliver it round the bottom end by the Church, but we always used to call them top end and bottom enders, Church is in the middle. Turners were in [Home Farm] and they had the buildings which is Home Court now. Where the [present] shop is now, that was what you call a bull box. They kept the bull in there”..

[Percy] “I worked there [at the Grange] during the war years. I think they only had two tractors, they had eight horses and there used to be about 16 men on the farm then, and what is there now, about 4. During the two summers [of] 1942 [and] 1943, the clocks were on 2 hours so therefore it was light until 12 and we used to be working horses at the Fallows and you had to bring the horses back from the Fallows to the Grange after they’d done harvesting. I never used to get home until half past 12, and we was at work again at half past six in the morning, so we used to say to the foreman, ‘what’s the point in taking the horses home when we want them?’ He said, ‘it might rain at night and we want them back at the Grange, you see’. [We took them] across Greaves Lane. That was nearly a three mile treck after you’d finished work to bring them back. We used to take them into the stables, give them a scoop of oats while you took the tackle off them and then turn them back into the paddock. Then you’d be fetching them up again at half six the following morning. That was only during harvest time so two months but that went on for two years, like. And Mr Singleton always used to have a harvest supper for us when we’d finished harvest, up at the Grange Farm”.

[Percy] “Another thing that always sticks out in my mind is during the war they ploughed everything up to get extra crops. They ploughed the hills up but they were rabbit warrens. They put in lupins and ploughed them in again to give them some body in 1941 I think. When [the] lupins got so high there was one of the tractor rolled them in and ploughed them in, and then [they] put in the corn. I shall always remember the first year it was corn and it was a tremendous crop, it was honestly. It was a very hot summer as well. I used to have to go and fetch water, it was that hot. Honestly. The race course field was ploughed up about the same time to get more crops you see. That’s when Mr Singleton was offered the MBE wasn’t it, the work he did for agriculture, because he used to go round all the farms”.

[Percy] “During the war there were two things that stood out in my mind, when the bombers were doing day raids. You couldn’t hear a thing [when] they came over us. They were going to bomb in Germany and there was as many as two hundred Lancaster bombers full loaded with bombs, it really shook the village. And when they bombed Sheffield it was terrible, that was a night raid, and then they did Nottingham, Sheffield was very big; we even heard that here, we could hear the bombs and the gun fire and everything up at the Fallows. They were after the steel works you see, the ball bearing factory and all the sidings and everything at Nottingham. We were in the Home Guard, and it was all done from the Manor. We had to do our stretch, because we were exempt from the army because we were farm workers, but we had to do that”.

[Elsie] “Jim got thirty shillings when we were first married, a pound note and a ten shilling note, that’s all we got. Mind you we got the cottage free and we got milk free, and eggs, because he looked after the poultry, all the men could have a dozen cracked eggs free.[At Grange Farm there] were two poultry houses down there, one held one thousand two hundred and the other one held just over a thousand, all laying birds and in 1940 it was all hand work it wasn’t an up to date job. All I did was clean the dirt trays out and collect eggs. There was only one to a cage in those days but [then] they had to put three or four in and that was cruel to me. They only went on for another two years and Doughty’s came and took them down and put them up again at East Bridgford. Now Mr Singleton made Doughty’s because there was always somebody there doing [a] job from Doughty’s”.

[Percy] “I used to bring three horses at a time from the Grange down to Mr Doughty’s, walk them down and wait for them to be shoed. I can see Mr Doughty now, he never had a cigarette out of his mouth, he had a ginger tash. [They were] very big horses, more like shire horses. We used to buy them and break them in. [There were] eight or nine, and they used to have two ponies. Matt used to have one for the sheep out in the fields and Joyce [Whitelocks], her father was the main pig man and he used to have a pony and trap for the pigs out in the fields. His pony was terrible, if you walked anywhere near he’d have your shirt off your back”.

[Elsie] “Jim’s dad worked [at the Hall], and he had three men under him. Those grounds were immaculate, the tennis court and where you walk down and go in-between the fish pond and the lake. Then you approached the green house and potting sheds and walled gardens like. [They grew] everything, tomatoes, peaches, carnations. Jim and I used to go with his dad and have a walk across there. There was nothing out of place, it was perfect. It was all for the Hall. They used to bring a load of trout [for the lake]”.

[Percy] “We used to play ice hockey on [the lake], I used to go up there and open the gates for all the gentry to come off Blind Lane into that paddock and then they used to run down to the lake and play ice hockey. We used to play field hockey at the end of the cricket pitch. Captain Henry was a keen cricketer. He used to have a three day match, Sir Julian [Cahn] used to come twice a year. He used to [put] a marquee up, it used to be a three day job. Levi Hopkin, Mrs Hopkin’s husband, he had a big say in all that. It was a beautiful cricket pitch that was, it was lovely, lush green and as I say they used to turn the sheep off on a Friday tea time, and my father used to go and prepare the wicket for cricket, and while he was doing that I picked all the sheep manure up and put it in the bag, and into a tub of water and that was for watering tomatoes”.

[Percy] “[Originally there were four pubs], Old Oak, Young Oak, [the] one down Water Lane where the Meats live, that was Young Oak and the Old Oak was down Sandy Lane where Rickers used to live. I can remember those being there. Where Stephanie Nix lives [by the water splash], that used to be a farm. Church [Farm House] was a farm, all that near that lake was a Dutch barn yard. Mrs Mortenson’s swimming pool was the manure yard”.

[Elsie] “When Mr Singleton died they sold everything off and it [went] back to the Estate, Admiral Sherbrooke was a friend of ours and used to come up to the Fallows to us. He knew Jim right from a little one you see, and he came and asked him if he’d be his chauffeur because when the main water burst on Oxton Hill, his chauffeur [Mr. Pay] died then. The 36 inch drain had got blocked up. It comes from the top [of Oxton Hill] and goes right down the side of the road, and he was trying to release the rubble and everything that was coming down and of course he had this heart attack and died”.

[Elsie] “[We lived up at the Fallows Farm for] 30 odd years. We went up there the day we were married and we came down here in 1968 [to an Estate cottage near Old Hall Nursery]. [The road to Fallows Farm] was a cart track, I needed a new pair of tyres every month. We didn’t have a car then, we had bikes. You got a lot of red squirrels [at Pudding Bag Cottage]. I remember 1940 was the most [snow] that we had as a fall, but 1947 was bad through drifting. You couldn’t get no where. We had to come down to Wilkins’s, [the dairy farm] down the side of the Dumble and out of the bottom of Oxton Hill to get the doctor. We were cut off for 15 weeks. And they had to go which ever way they could up the Fallows. Mr Singleton tried to get a blower to blow it off the lane but it was too much, they couldn’t do it”.

[Percy] “We had this terrific storm [in 1971] and the clouds burst. That storm broke on Oxton hill. It all came this way [past the Church down Main Street]. It came with such a rush that there was nothing to stop it, no hedges or ponds to stop it.”

[Percy] “[It was] a second [chance when I married Marjorie] because I always liked her but there was a difference in ages- I was four and a half years older. In those days it mattered, but now days it doesn’t but I was always a bit sweet on Marjorie when we were teenagers. She came here when she was seven and somebody else came and snapped her up, and I was on the back street sweeping and I never bothered like and then she came back in my life after all those years. We were the last to get married at Southwell registry office before it moved to Kelham Hall”.

Jim, Alan and Brian Cooper, Oxton 1992
Courtesy of Newark Advertiser

2 thoughts on “Elsie Cooper and Percy Cooper

  1. Does anyone remember my grandfather Arthur Victor Young gamekeeper lived at pudding bag cottages in late 1940’s.

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