Quorn Memories - Maria Ankers, 1939
Loughborough Echo - 21st July 1939
Few local villages can have witnessed greater changes than Quorn during the past several decades - changes resulting not so much from developments within the village itself as from the increase of through-traffic between Leicester and Loughborough. Yet Quorn retains its individuality; its youngsters may be compelled to sell their labour and to seek their diversions elsewhere, but there are family, religious and social bonds holding them together, as firmly as when "Shanks' pony" and Frisby's horse-drawn bus were the only means of transport.
Ninety-years-old Mrs Maria Ankers has watched the transition from the 19th to the 20th century from her window alongside the main street. She is a native of Quorn, and proud of it - as also Quorn must be proud of her, its oldest woman resident.
There are other stalwarts too, who are able to speak of earlier days; Mr and Mrs Joe Burton of the Bank, for instance. Although Mr Burton hails from Barrow-on-Soar, his 47 years residence in Quorn entitle him to citizenship. With justifiable pride he mentions that during his 77 years he has made excursion into various war zones. But his wife is Quornian through and through.
Schooling in Mrs Ankers' early days was under the able direction of Mr Pink. Attendance, she says, was quite voluntary, and the charge made was two-pence per week. Most of the children left school at a very early age, and the economic circumstances of parents demanded that many should be "half-timers", owing to the necessity for their help in the seaming which had to be done.
Various other head-masters are remembered; there were Mr Judges (afterwards of Church Gate school, Loughborough), Mr Shannon and Mr King.
The Rev. Robert Stammers, the Vicar, was a cleric whose memory is well-beloved in Quorn, and whose slight eccentricities were more than counterbalanced by his charming personality and his sincerity. He was particularly kind to the children, to whom he often gave pennies.
Mr Woolerton held the position of church warden for a long period and he had the lettings of "sittings". There was a small harmonium in use at the church in those days, and the lads and girls of the choir (of whom Mrs Ankers was one) used to hold their practices on Sunday afternoons. Their thoughts, alas, were not always on musical matters, for one Sunday afternoon the churchwarden came suddenly into the church and caught the choristers parading in surplices, with George White impressively vested and expounding from the pulpit!
Quorn people have been fortunate, too, in the succeeding incumbencies of the Rev E Foord Kelcey and Canon H H Rumsey, both of whom have well deserved their place in the affections of their parishioners. No slight was intended towards the former when the churchyard received the designation of "Kelcey's Allotment."
These old people remember the festivities when the Wakes were held at the Cross. The stalls "came up as far as the bridge", and the occasion was one for a general merry-making, and for family reunions. Bonfire night celebrations used to be held each year, but these used to be somewhat half-hearted, until the Adairs family (who had a native servant) came to Quorn and organized festivities on their lawn, to which they invited the public.
The youthful section delighted in the fireworks, and their elders, too, were fond of the spectacular - as on August Bank Holiday Monday, when the Oddfellows "walked" with George Wilders carrying the banner. Mountsorrel Band headed the procession to the Parish Church and through the village streets, and there was a sumptuous repast provided at the "Bull's Head" by Hostess Hannah Squire. Dinner was followed by sports, and the excitements of the tug-of-war and other games are still fresh in memory.
The Quorn Band
But Quorn had its own band, composed of members of a family of nail makers, named Disney. Most people knew this as "Disney's Band", but there were some who persisted in calling it the "Not for Joe" Band. "Punter" Disney, the drummer (he worked at the tan-yard) was a diminutive but stout-hearted fellow, and the story is told of how, on one occasion, this band went off to Loughborough, where poor "Punter" being unable to see over the top of his drum - took a wrong turning and marched through the streets alone! It is somewhat unfortunate that similar stories about similar drummers should be current in several local villages!
The tan-yard where "Punter" and nearly a hundred others worked was owned by Mr Joseph Joshua Farthing, whose nephew, by the way, is to-day Bishop of Montreal. Other old names, such as Stevenson and Robbins are remembered among the workers here. Mr Farthing was a benefactor who gave gifts of tea and tobacco to inmates of the workhouse.
Every Friday at the tan-yard there was a large copper of boiling soup, made from the ox-tails cut from the hides, and the poor of Quorn took their jugs to be filled.
A holiday on Good Friday was given and paid for, but on condition that the men attended church in the morning. It was brought to Mr Farthing's notice that one, browsing in his cups, had boasted that "he only went to church one a year, and that was when he was paid for it." The holiday and pay were cancelled forthwith.
Other employment was provided by Balm, Hill & Co., "Lace and Cotton Tatting" manufacturers, and lace was also produced in Dexter's factory. To augment the meagre incomes of their men-folk at the quarries, seaming was brought by the carriers for the women and girls, and even the enlistment of young children in this work failed to provide a comfortable existence for some of the families.
Frames were loaned by Loughborough firms for the making of hosiery, and there were a number of stockinger's shops in the village. One of these - a large 2 storied building near the churchyard - was owned by Mr and Mrs Underwood, and the houses on the Bank were evidently erected as frame-shops, too. There was also Mr Thomas North, who was for many years the village postmaster. He found work for a number of helpers in the making of tallow candles, and the scene of this activity is to this day know as "Tallow-fat Yard".
Toll-gate houses existed on the main road near Loughborough Cemetery, and at Woodhouse Lane end. But Quorn people were of a home-loving disposition, and the services afforded by the carriers were ample for their needs. There was Lovett who travelled between Loughborough and Leicester, and Frisby the owner of the horse-bus, who would warn of his approach by a shrill whistle.
It would seem that Quorn was at one time well equipped for tradesmen; there were 6 bakers, 3 blacksmiths, 6 boot-and shoe- makers, 4 butchers, 4 tailors, 3 saddlers and 2 wheelwrights in the village during the later decades of the last century, when Quorn was a much vaunted residential centre. Mrs Ankers considers that the village is three times the size it was during her childhood, and she wonders what the continued expansions Loughborough-wards may eventually portend.
For the old public-houses there was a more than ordinary affection. "The Three Crowns" is gone; as also is the "Blue Ball" (where the Co-op now stands). The house now known as "Wren's Nest" was originally a public-house.
At the "White Hart"
The days of old James Rumsby at the "White Hart" are well remembered. This landlord was a keen cricket enthusiast who brewed his own ale, with which he was generous to a fault on festive occasions. Invariably he wore a top hat, and he never discarded it, even when he had to chase the boys and girls who annoyed him by playing on his roller. On one occasion Mr Wykes hid a party of girls under his stairs while James sought for them in vain.
Mr Rumsby had a large wooden hut on the cricket pitch (where the Park now is) and when matches were being played he was keenly concerned as to the progress being made by his son Billy, who was a player of some talent. But is became somewhat too widely known that it was only necessary to run down to Mr Rumsby - at any time during a match - and say "Your Bill's got another four, Mr Rumsby," and that worthy would respond with "Thanks, my lad. Have a drink!" The majority of the "fours" scored by Billy were in the imaginations of those who conspired to wheedle some ale from his father! But still, he was a fine cricketer, as also were Bill Martin and William Willmore.
Another character whose work will long be remembered in Quorn was Dr Harris. He served the village throughout long years - travelling from point to point in his trap - and his jovial greeting was a tonic to the afflicted under his care. In due course came Dr Unitt as his assistant, and he, too, earned lasting popularity and affection. Incidentally, their relations were evidently of the happiest character, for Dr Harris's daughter became Mrs Unitt!
A Charming Custom
There was Mr Robert Thompson, who lived in the house now occupied by Mr Beardsley. He had a charming custom, each Christmas, of presenting a penny to every youngster of New Quorn. But woe betide any hopeful who appeared for the gift and was not of New Quorn! (NB New Quorn is the area behind New Quorn House on Loughborough Rd)
Mr Thompson would be aware of his imposition immediately, and he would go empty away. But in spite of this, Mr Thompson was a kind-hearted soul, beloved of every kiddy in the village, and he was a good friend, too, to their elders.
Lucas the watch-maker was an old-established tradesman, whom everyone knew and liked. And the family of Holmes, the blacksmiths, seem to have been part of Quorn for longer than most people can remember.
The Nonconformist places of worship were well-supported, although time has brought changes. The Free Church (old John Judd's Chapel) has lost its importance as a Spiritualist meeting-place. Then, too, the old Primitive Methodist Chapel has been turned into an institute and serves as head-quarters for the local Adult school and the British Legion.
For many years local Wesleyans made good headway in the building which stood behind the present chapel. Mrs Burton remembers a harmonium being used for the services here, and mentions William Ackroyd, Thomas Bramley, and Miss Fanny Tacey as three ardent friends of the movement. But there were almost interminable services in those days; preachers "seemed to have no idea at all that their congregations were waiting to go home to dinner or supper."
Occasional excitements have taken place in the lower portions of the village, owing to floods, but the great flood of July, 1875 will not be readily forgotten. Poor William Brown (his son John is now over 80) was drowned in the "White Horse" yard, when the wall collapsed under the pressure of the swirling waters, and people living in the lower parts had to be taken in waggonettes out of danger. The water reached past the "Bull's Head", and worshippers were unable to attend their chapel.
There was a man named Storer who boarded a boat at Barrow - evidently with the intention of reaching Quorn by a short-cut - but he was compelled to climb into a chestnut-tree, where he was marooned for the night. The "Noah's Ark", in which the swans were kept, had to be moved to higher ground, and a herd of 71 bullocks between Quorn and Barrow were rescued from their difficulties, with the loss of only one of their number.
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We can trace Maria Ankers (nee Wyld) in the census returns. In 1891 (aged 41) she was living in Mountsorrel Road (Leicester Road), Quorn with Charles (her husband) a hosiery framework knitter from Ratcliffe, and their daughter, Elizabeth. The Ankers lived in the area where Wakerley Court stands today. Maria was born in 1850.