Tessa Canning


Letter to Gary, Cambridge 12/02/09

Hello Gary,

Thanks for your reply to Julie regarding the cottage of my late auntie Kate Canning. 
It’s nice to know that relative new-comers to Widdington are so interested in its history.

I was born in Tudor Barn, and lived there until I married, visiting my parents
regularly until they died, and after that my brother Laurie until his death in 2003,

The beautiful seat outside the Fleur-de-Lys was made by Jummy Gilder and dedicated
to Laurie from Jimmy and four other friends.

I spent many happy hours in the Fleur-de-Lys as it was kept by my father’s sister
Nellie Chesham and her husband Bert.  I believed you’ve seen photos of me with them
in the back yard of the pub.  As a child, I remember being taken down every Saturday
evening and placed in the sitting room behind the bar, while my parents enjoyed a social evening out. 
In those days, before most families owned a car, the pub was the centre of the social whirl.  I can still remember the smoky atmosphere, abuzz with laughter and the sound of people enjoying themselves; at closing time (10.30) my uncle Bert used to roar “Come along my honeys, you see the time” the other pub in the village, the William The Conqueror was busy too, though I wasn’t’ a “regular” Mr and Mrs Pearman kept it from about 1954 and I used to go there to see their daughter Gladys, who was the same age as me. Before then, it was kept by Fred Fair.  He had a daughter called Evelyn Edworthy, who
thought acrobatics and tap dancing to the village girls to perform in concerts in the
Village Hall, or “the Hut” as it was called then, I don’t know who Fred Thurston was,
as the family who kept the pub before Fred Fair was called Schooling.

I attended Widdington C of E School, which was a typical red brick village school,
it had one large school room, divided into two by a very tall storage cupboard. 
On one side the infants were taught by Gwen Simmonds, and on the other side, Miss King from Newport taught the juniors.  We were allowed to play in a huge area know as “the school meadow” which extended from the village hall, along a boundary with a field that bordered Cornells lane, and over to the road that led round to Carmichael’s Farm. 
Life as a child might seem dull compared to the world of today’s children, but we made our own enjoyment with simple pleasures. W e walked a lot, picked flowers in the woods leading
through to Henham, especially just before May Day, when we decorated wooden crosses with bunches of flowers and a pair of hoops in which was hung a doll representing the May Queen.  We used to go from door to door singing the May song – “I’ve been a-rambling all this night and some part of the day, and now returning back again to bring you a branch of May “This song as you may know is very traditional.  We collected money for our singing and I believed some was kept for the school and the rest given to charity.

In winter two ponds in particular froze hard (real winters then), Amberden Hall and Campbell’s (now Widdington Hall), we spent evenings sliding on them (priors hall) having great fun.

At harvest time we used to watch the threshing machine, and elevator taking the bales of hay up to the men on top of the haystack. Afterwards, we used to go “gleaning” for
left over corn to feed our chickens.

Girls in the village had an organized activity they could join, called the Girls Friendly
Society, run by Miss Binks we played games and did handicrafts, and met weekly I think.
The occasional concert was given by boys and girls, of dancing and acrobatics; Evelyn
Edworthy and Gwen Simmonds taught and rehearsed the performers.

Buses came to the village on Tuesdays and Saturdays only to  Saffron Walden, so any other activities involved either a cycle ride or a walk to the “Main Road” to catch the bus to
Walden or Bishops Stortford.  I remember cycling to the Youth Club in Saffron Walden every week to listen to the “Top Twenty” pop songs, broadcast on Radio Luxemburg, since the regular BBC radio channels didn’t air pop music.  How would the children of today have
coped with out Ipods and instant internent?

Altogether, growing up in Widdington in gentler times was a totally happy experience
No-one of my era that I have spoken to felt deprived or disadvantaged through lack of
money or facilities. Very much the reverse.



I hope this hasn’t been to rambling I will try to find some photos which you may not have seen.

How do you cover so many years of happy memories?!




                Many thank  for Your Wonderful Memories Tessa,


                                   Please keep on Rambling


                                                                                             xx    GaryD