Peter Stonebridge

Just to congratulate you on a very interesting website. I was surfing around and thought that I would see if Hougham had a website. How things have changed since the period 1944 – 51 when I lived at the Station House. My Father was a Signalman at Barkston North and I attended Marston C of E School. I got a scholarship to Grantham Grammar, but in the meantime he was promoted to Station Master grade at Dullingham, near Newmarket. We moved house of course and one day I hope to return to see how things have changed.
I loved living at Hougham, the air, the wildlife and every day in the Summer was Sunny! I’m sure it wasn’t, but you only remember the better days! The Station House had no electricity, we were completely lit by oil lamps. Water came from a well in the Station drive, pumped every day by a member of the Station staff. There were 2 other cottages in the Station yard occupied by Ted Pearson, the Ganger + Mr Drury, who was a signalman at Hougham. Just across the track was a farm owned by Mr Capp. Following the road to Marston was another farm, (Corner Farm perhaps) owned by Mr Young. I went to school with Brian Young, his son.
There was a garage in Marston where I had to take accumulators to charge, and just one shop. We all piled out of school at dinner time to visit the shop, this is where I ate my first Banana! I was ill for a week and never touched one since! Just down the line was a level crossing. Mrs Myers and Mrs Glossop worked the gates, there other halves were porters or signalmen. I was at School with all of their children.
My eldest son now lives in Nottingham, so it wouldn’t add much to our drive home to divert and have a walk around on one of our future visits. I live in Ipswich now, very close to the railway of course!
My Fathers name was Herbert Stonebridge, he passed away around 15 years ago, my Mother was Connie, she passed away around 25 years ago, and I’m 75 this year which defines an age bracket for anyone who might remember me.
Forgot about the Bridge, single track by todays standards I guess, so not surprised they had to build another! There were only 2 classes at the School, HM was Harry Burton, juniors were taught by his wife. Our class would go to a playing field just on the Hougham side of the Bridge for football or cricket. The field was far from level, in fact it was a series of large ripples! Cricket was therefore very exiting as no-one knew where the ball was going to fly up at an angle! I always believed that this sort of agriculture dated back a few hundred years, so if I lived there now, I’d probably have my metal detector out to see what laid beneath the surface.
I did once write “A Picture of a Lincolnshire Village in the 1940’s”, which were of course Hougham / Marston, for the “Best of British” magazine, but they rejected it.
I talked about many PoW’s working for Farmers, cutting the corn with one of the “new” Binders pulled by a Tractor instead of Horse Power! They were state of the art at that time of course, and threshing using Traction Engine power. There was a Post Office in Marston, and the Post Mistress ran the local WI who did all sorts of things to keep spirits up in the days after the war.
There was only 1 return train a day into Grantham, locally known as the Parli (Parliamentary)! It went in around 0900 but returned at 1300hrs, so not a lot of good for anyone who wanted a job in Grantham! I also think that there was 1 bus / week, which struggled to get up Gonnerby Hill with a full load of passengers.
Yes, have got Google Earth. In fact I found myself on it a couple of years ago cooking a BBQ here. I’ll have a drive through Marston / Hougham later, courtesy of GE, and see how much I can recognise.
Had a “drive through” Marston / Hougham courtesy of Street Level GE. Very interesting, recognised a lot of properties, but there are huge additions as you said. I not sure that the buildings on the RHS just approaching the overbridge are still a farm? There are quite a lot of aerials to see from GE. The large aerial right next to the bridge belongs to the railway and is a GSMR system.
Also I noticed a very secure gate at the top of the old station drive, so maybe there is some form of industry down there, not necessarily to do with the railway.
The School looked exactly as it used to from outside. Wonder if the bell is still in the tower calling us to opening time at 0900hrs. Cannot remember if it was used a lunch time as well.
The flagpole has gone from the junction end of the building. Even when I was there I cannot recall any rope being in place, but the top pulley was there. There was one boy who could climb the pole and used to sit on the top bracket securing it to the building! The problem was that it was difficult to get down again, and Mr Burton had to produce his ladder plus the inevitable caning of course!
The desks just had flip up lids plus a small compartment to keep your books. The seats were just flat wooden ones and part of the desk. Closing the lid after sitting down was quite noisy as the hinges and stops were cast iron. Someone put some “caps” in my hinges so when I slammed the worktop down, as was the custom, the caps went off! Caning followed, even though I knew nothing about the trap set.
School dinners appeared around 1948 /9 I think. Otherwise you sat at your desk with a Jam, meat paste or even Dripping sandwich for lunch! The meals came from a central kitchen, probably Grantham, and were kept warm and dished out by a couple of villagers. They then had to wash all the plates etc afterwards! There was no separate eating area, plain tables were set up in the seniors classroom.
Hougham Station was an important site in Railway operations, although few people knew, or possibly cared. Whenever a new, refurbished, major repair or modified locomotive came out of Doncaster works, it stopped for an hour or two in the siding next to our house for examination and checking over. I got to know the 3 crews quite well and often had a ride on the footplate up to Barkston triangle where they turned. My Father was signalman at Barkston North so there was often a lot of banter exchanged..
I used to fetch “mis-shapen” eggs from Mr Capp’s farm at a nominal cost, eggs of course were scarce, but they couldn’t sell on those below grade. Some we ate, but a couple were often save to barter with the engine crews to be a bit “untidy” when pulling their coal forward on the tender before they left. It is amazing how many large lumps fell off!
They used to cook Bacon and eggs on the fire but you had to be careful about selecting when the fire was hot, but totally clean. Obviously if coal was added, it would ruin the taste. Cooking only took a few seconds, and I enjoyed many a fry up on the footplate! There was one golden rule that the “blower” had to be “Off”! One day the fire was a bit low on arrival, so the fireman put a few shovels on and opened the blower to liven it up. The driver returned from underneath the engine having oiled the centre bearings and immediately set about cooking their lunch. Unfortunately opening the firehole door and poking the shovel in bearing several rashers, the through draft sucked all the food into the furnace and blew it all out of the chimney! Their Bacon was found 25 yds away completely frazzled!
There was no milk deliveries, we had to walk down to the Corner Farm and take a pint or quart container which was filled with fresh milk. In the early days we had a boy evacuated from London who occasionally went to fetch the milk. My Father noticed that on the return, the level wasn’t where he expected it to be and had a word with Mr Young about the short measure.
The explanation was simple, young David was drinking it on the journey home!
Groceries came from the Grantham Co-op and we had an order book filled in every week with the next weeks requirements. These arrived at our house around 1600hrs every Sat afternoon and as we were the last delivery, the driver always stopped for a welcome cup of tea.
Rabbits were in abundance and we usually managed to catch at least 1 / week. I took any skins into Grantham on the “Parli” and I believe that they were worth around six pence / skin.
I then called at a “Dog Meat” shop, the queues were often 100yds long to buy meat for our Dog, splashed liberally in a green dye. If I still had time, I then went to “Roberts the Greengrocers” nearby for a supply of veg that my Father didn’t grow!
We were mostly self sufficient, but there were things that didn’t grow, or there was no room in the garden he cultivated on the opposite side of the track, ie the farm side.
We moved on to Dullingham for a while and attended Soham Grammar School, then to Clare in Suffolk where I was taken on by the local power company Eastern Electricity. I served an apprenticeship and worked my way through the engineering grades until I finished up as a 1st Engineer, System Control.
We covered the whole of East Anglia eventually plus 3 Railway Traction Control Centres. I think that I worked more shifts talking with their 25KV control centres than any other person on the team because of the track / traction knowledge. I’d got my FITE by this time and life was looking good.
Along came privatisation and the need to save money for shareholders, and I was one of many to be made redundant. A local coach company who I used many times / year to set up Sports Club functions took me on 1 day / week to set up some “different” types of day excursions. I set up a relationship with “The Cathedrals Express” company who did several day excursions to Cathedral Cities using steam traction and also the VSOE company for a Day’s ride around in Pullman carriages with fine dining! I obviously had a freebee day out on the railway, but no pay from the coach company of course. That arrangement suited me down to the ground! Unfortunately as money became tight, these venues of failed, so I fully retired around 5 years ago.


Best mate - cousin - myself



Marston Football Team 1948



Marston School Photo circa 1947

Myself with C Cub badge