When John Holman was born in 1933, Bridge House, at 40 Bridge Road, where his family lived, was already a very old cottage, appearing on some of the earliest Ordnance Survey mapping. A cooper’s family had lived there. The old A frame line from the original thatched roof can still be seen.
This was a period of transition, modernisation and change in Cosgrove. Across the road in the new council houses, electric light and power, gas and mains sewage were already being used.
But in Bridge House there was still what was known, locally, as a “Bucket and Chuck it” system. You went to the toilet in an outhouse and you sat on a wooden seat over a bucket. A night cart from the Council came round the village collecting the contents and taking it away. It came to Cosgrove in the early mornings. Water closets could not be used without mains water, of course.
All the Holman’s water had to be fetched from a standpipe in the garden at the back of the cottage. This was a modern improvement that replaced a hand pump previously there. There were some 16 wells around the village at this time, but Bridge House didn’t have one. The house was put on mains water which fed the standpipe in 1936.
Electricity didn’t arrive until 1936 either. Many of the houses in Cosgrove, like Bridge House, used oil lamps for lighting. Cooking was done on a paraffin stove. There was a range, with a boiler at the side, which had a brass tap that fascinated John as a little boy. Bridge House did not have gas laid on while John’s family lived there. They left the Bridge House in 1971.
Washing clothes involved fetching water from the standpipe, heating it in the copper and scrubbing it by hand in a tub. Then it had to be dried on a line when the weather allowed and ironed using a flat iron heated on the stove. Getting water for people to wash was a similar task.
There were no fridges in ordinary houses until after the Second World War. Food was eaten fresh, the same day that it was picked or bought or preserved by bottling, salting or drying. Meat and dairy food was kept in a larder with a window open to the air covered by a metal fly screen. Some houses had a stone “step”, or counter, which kept cool enough to allow food sitting on it to be kept a day or two longer.
By 1953 there was still only one house in Bridge Road which had a phone number 17. In that year John, working in the allotments at the back of Bridge Road, had put the tine of a cultivator, about 1¼ inches by 9 inches, through his foot. He yelled for his mate and asked for a hacksaw and an adjustable spanner. By the time Phyllis, who was staying for the weekend, had gone to the Goodridge’s at number 17 to use the phone to get an ambulance, John had dismantled the machine enough to get his foot, with the tine still in it, free. He was quite a celebrity both in the ambulance and with the nurses at the hospital, who kept him there for about two weeks. But when John needed an operation, the hospital had to phone number 17 and the Goodridges had to fetch Mrs Holman from over the road to speak to the doctors to give permission for the operation to go ahead.