"Reflections - Looking Back"

by JOAN BROCKWAY (nee Higgins).      

I was thirteen years old when I came to live in Cosgrove in 1925 - a pretty little village on the borders of Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire, just in Northants. When you cross the River Ouse at Old Stratford, you are in North Bucks. The Grand Union Canal cuts the village in half, and at the very end, the River Tove runs through the meadows.

The approach from Stony Stratford is the prettiest, as the road is bordered by the “Spinney” as we called it years ago, it had some dainty larch trees, deceased long ago, hut the Aconites are still there, and: were there when I cycled to school in Stony Stratford many years ago, about seventy years to be precise.

Very soon you come upon the Lodge at the entrance to the Hall. It’s a pretty little house in black and white timber, very low with over—hanging thatched roof. We called it the ‘Toadstool House’.

The old stone Church of St.Peter and St.Paul dated about 12-13 hundred, is approached through the Kissing Gate, iron of course, bordered by ancient Yew trees and beneath them, someone has made and planted flower borders, delightful in Spring with flowering bulbs, and in Summer, Bedding plants all colours beyond description. I don’t know who is responsible for these borders, but they make a delightful entrance to the Church, and whoever is responsible should be commended for their loving care.

The ancient church has six bells in the tower, at one time there were only five, but a sixth was added at the King’s Silver Jubilee in 1935. —  (King George V and Queen Mary).

The Rectory was probably Georgian but I think there were older parts the back. Cosgrove had a Rector, hence, the Rectory and not Vicarage.

When we arrived in Cosgrove, we had a Curate-in—Charge, Rev. Joseph Stockton as the Rector was a naughty old man, deprived, or sequestrated and thrown out by the Bishop, and could no longer preach or hold services in that Bishop's Diocese. I think the trouble was mainly drink, probably his Churchwardens were responsible for sending him packing. He outlived his sentence of 25 years and no one could stop his entrance back into the Church, by that time he was well over 80 years, and frequently becalled those responsible from the pulpit in his services. He was a little man, only about 5ft. tall, known in the village as ‘Little Jackie’. I remember he stood on a fish box in the pulpit, from which he shouted the odds, to make up for his lack of stature, often becalling those responsible for his removal from the parish.

The village school was comparatively new, known as the ‘new school’, as the old one is still there at the lower end of the village, a forbidding looking building two storeys high~ They did not intend pupils to lose their concentration by looking out of the windows, they were far too high. I had an old friend, now deceased, who attended there and was dressed in her little white pinafore and buttoned boots. We used it for Women’s Institute meetings, dances and socials before the first village hall was built and, it was known as the ‘Victory Hall’, as it was erected after the second World War. That has now been replaced by a sparkling new redbrick one, with all ‘mod cons’.

When it was my turn to be married ‘Jackie’ was still the Incumbent, well over 90 years old. We asked his son if he thought his father would mind if we asked another vicar to marry us, but he said his father would be very hurt. I don’t think he would have been so hurt as angry, and would have made any visiting vicar’s life very unpleasant, I had seen it happen at an ordinary service, so ‘Little Jackie’ it had to be.

It was to be a quiet war-time wedding as indeed it turned out to be — no bells and no music. The organist offered to play for us, but I thanked her and said it would only prolong the agony. We arrived at the church to find no ‘Little Jackie’, so we waited whilst my ‘father-in—law to be’, hurried off to the rectory, quite some distance from the church, quite a long gravel path and through overgrown bushes to the front door of the rectory, but no ‘Little Jackie’, and so we waited again whilst the Churchwarden, Mrs. Feil, offered to go. She was a stout lady, but such a beaming smile, it made you happy to look at her —  after a time she came puffing back with a triumphant smile to shout “He’s coming, he’s coming” and we stood up in readiness once more — after more waiting, the little Chancel door opened, and in came this little wraith—like figure, long black overcoat reaching the floor, long black gloves and black hat and so we started at last ‘Not dearly beloved’ he looked as if he hated the lot of us. His memory was not too good, and when he forgot a bit, he started from the beginning again, and after what seemed a long time, he said to me “I think you’re on the wrong side, but I don’t suppose it matters”, you can stand up if you’re tired, but I stuck it out. He also got our names mixed up, not sure if he did not marry me to the best man, but I don’t suppose that mattered either —  after the ceremony, he told us we must go to the Rectory to sign the Register, his son had filled it in, as it was too heavy for little Jackie to carry to the Church and so we trooped back through the bushes to sign it, in the Drawing Room. His wife offered him a steaming hot drink, which I would have loved, and he said “The Book is over there, you go and sign it”, which we did. The best man, my brother—in—law, handed him the seven shillings and sixpenoe licence fee and he cheered up and said “Thank you very much it’s difficult to come by these days” —  that was the end of my wedding apart from once more through the bushes and back through the church to the waiting congregation, quite a few turned up as there was not a lot of excitement in Cosgrove in those days, wartime 1942, the coldest day of that year. (30th. December)

Apologies for my mistakes, I’m very tired, and you will be too if you read this.

J. B. 1996