NEW BRADWELL: A Hundred and Fifty Candles

A poem, especially written by Neil Beardsmore, commemorating the Sesquicentenary of New Bradwell.

NEW BRADWELL: A HUNDRED AND FIFTY CANDLES

First it’s the school bell that ushers them in,
The teacher’s whistle silver-bright as a pin,
Then the church bell’s single notes, gently rings,
Nave and altar, the slim tower is missing,
Nobby Newport’s steam whistles a din,
Slides in the station, a new community begins.

I

Neil Beardsmore

Neil Beardsmore

The man in top hat waits for first class,
His lady has flowers over her bonnet,
Fine women with dresses to their feet.
The butcher’s boy was there, cap in hand,
The coal man and his lad,
The chimney sweep, the ladies from the grocer’s.

The stationmaster is done up too, uniform creased up new,
Chatter and grins, expectation,
They look up line for Nobby Newport
Boys see the first signs of the white plume.
The signal clanks down, there’s a little cheer.

Steam and struggling pistons through the trees.
Up she comes along the iron road.
Progress ladies and gentlemen.
Industrialisation has come to New Brad’ll.
We were the first with aquaducts, ladies and gentlemen,
And now we can travel to work in style.
Cattle trucks and goods vans.

Nobby Newport

Nobby Newport

Tarpaulin covered wagons and cable drums.
You can catch the train from Newport to Wolverton,
And get on a tram to Stony Stratford.
The days of commuting are with us, ladies and gentlemen.
Nobby Newport steams in,
All white puff and pumping.

Smiles and cheers and whistles,
God save the Queen. Rule Britannia.
Set your hunter watches gentlemen
By the whistle of Nobby Newport every morning.
Bet they can’t keep trains running
That regular in a hundred and fifty year’s time.

II

Boys in lines over here. Girls in lines there.
Come on now. No slovenliness and backsliding.
Kids march in and out, military style to attention,
Arm’s length apart. No nudging. No smirks behind hands.

New Bradwell Schoolboys

New Bradwell Schoolboys 1931

Sit in rows with books. Watch teacher’s hand
In the corner of your eye. He might prod you.
Girls are making lace. Have photos taken of them
In the war for international publicity. World fame for NB!

Was chewing gum invented then?
Did they have it stuck under chairs?
Mobile phones didn’t go off in class
And earphones and designer trainers were still to come.

Teacher was the only visual aid.
God help you if he was ugly.
‘Look at me. Boy. Look at my cane.
And this is my slipper.’

Interactive white boards?
Nah, chalk-dusty fingers and dust-motes in sunbeams.
Glad when it was four.
Swim in the river on sunny days.

And when you was grown up?
What did New Brad’ll hold:
Railway factory or work in a shop,
Know your place in the world.

Go to college in them days? No chance.
Hard graft was all you got. Come home in winter
To gas lights. Work. Improved the soul.
Sundays in best at the chapel.

You know a place is established when it’s got a church,
A school and some railway lines,
You know it’s on the map with a mosque,
A canal, a Co-op, a silver band that shines,A housing collective in rainbow colours,
Smiling locals, by these things New Brad’ll’s defined.

III

‘You got a moment, then. Listen here, bend an ear, then.
There’s a few tales to tell of New Brad’ll.
Old Tarry the butcher had a white donkey,
Pulled his cart round the village, and at night
Was the resident ghost of Bridge Street they say.
He’d wander about from his hut in the dark
With fluorescent fur in shimmering gas light
Frightened two girls off after the dance,
Ran home with tales of spooks in New Brad’ll.

And not to forget: Henry Lines’ lions.
1900 it was. A barber he was and well respected.
When the menagerie came to town
And the lion tamer came for a trim,
He dared Henry Lines to cut his hair
In the lion’s cage. He took it up too:
Left a shop full of customers and dived in
With him, and the lions watched closely.
He didn’t cut their manes though.

The New Inn

The New Inn

And 1904. Tom Squires is landlord of the New Inn,
The War Office was its real name
Due to the action sometimes seen there.
Local advice to the new owner:
‘If you can’t throw the customers through the door,
throw ‘em through the window.’

But the best was yet to come. Best? No, Guest!
The Reverend Allan Newman ‘Joey’ Guest.
28 September 1908. By March 27 1909
He’d got the congregation by the wedding banns:
‘You’ve all been living in sin,’ he cries,
‘all you little children are bastards.’
The church never had a license to marry
He’d found out, all the weddings were null,
some 1000 over fifty years!)
But how he blurted it out didn’t go down well,
Women were scared their menfolk would wander off.
An Order of Parliament put it straight in the end,
After it got in the national news.

Revd. Allan Newman Guest

Revd. Allan Newman Guest

A big fella he was: six foot three and fifteen stone,
You didn’t mess with him.
Runner and gate jumper, bicyclist with feet in the air,
Not many vicars have a pub named after them:
Joey Guest we miss you: The Jovial Priest.

 

 

Do you hear the wind whistle round
The windmill sails? Do you hear her
Moaning at full moon misty nights?
She’s still there after four hundred year,
missing her lover . . . The ghost of Brad’ll Mill heights. . .’

IV

I’ll tell you an old tale of long ago,
Of Jack and Jill and Johnno,
Up the mill at New Brad’ll
You see Brad’ll Brook brightly flow.

The year were 1685 or thereabout,
You know a little while before
The Co-op come with its divi paying out.
Jack were with Jill and walkin’ out.

It were reasonably regular there were no doubt,
And marriage seemed likely soon,
If it weren’t for dashing young Johnno,
That would likely have been the tune.

See Johnno had his own designs on the girl,
Flirted with her till she was all of a whirl.
She didn’t know which way to turn
For she loved ‘em both now and didn’t know who to spurn.

They both vied for her heart,
Brought posies and Johnno brought her a ring
That Jack said had fallen off the back of a cart.
And one dark evening when all was quiet

Jack and Johnno had a rendezvous
Near the babblin’ brook, they weren’t intendin’ to riot.
Their idea was to make it up and draw lots
But nature got the better of Jack

And he burst blows onto Johnno with rocks,
And Johnno was down and lost
Blood on his cheeks and blood on his heart,
She’d loved her man, but the coin was tossed.

Let it be a lesson to all you young maidens,
Ne’er play one off t’other,
You’ll lose more than you bargained
And get in trouble with your mother.

They hung poor Jack high from the gibbet,
He swung around with crows for days.
She buried ‘em both and hid herself
Upstairs in the mill they says.

Did herself in, poor little mite,
Lost all her loves through being contrite.
The moral of this tale is clear
Don’t fall in love with a chancer
He’ll bring you tears.

She’s up in the loft now,
The ghost of her looks out over town,
When the wind blows the sails
She’s heard to moan around.

And if you’re in doubt about
This tale of slaughter,
Listen to this, it’ll make you alter:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pale of water,
I don’t know what they did up there,
But now they’ve got a daughter . . .

First it’s the school bell that ushers them in,
The teacher’s whistle silver-bright as a pin,
Then the church bell’s single notes, gently rings,
Nave and altar, the slim tower is missing,
Nobby Newport’s steam whistles a din,
Slides in the station, a new community begins.

You know a place is established when it’s got a church,
A school and some railway lines,
You know it’s on the map with a mosque,
A canal, a Co-op, a silver band that shines,
A housing collective in rainbow colours,
Smiling locals, by all these things New Brad’ll’s defined.

The Industrial Revolution’s time has finished its run,
The works chimney’s gone now with the setting sun,
But we’re all still here cheering on with fun,
Rows of houses with new cultures, the global village just begun,
It’s New Brad’ll! New Bradwell! A hundred and fifty years young!

Acknowledgements: Thanks are due to Alan and Jennifer Cooper (New Bradwell Heritage Group) without whose help and support and the loan of precious archive material this poem could not have been written. To Sylvia Mead, local historian. The stories and reminiscences of Alice Bent, Dick Tarry, Edna Peart, Louisa Gurney from The Stantonbury Album. Cecil Geoffs, Bob Blackburn, Bill May, John and Judy Maynard and John’s mum of Thompson Street were all known to me and contributed stories and wit. In the eighties and early nineties Smithy mended my bike (he was rumoured to have a pistol from the war out the back which he waved in front of louts intending to rob). Thanks to Rev Chris Collinge whose friendly cheerful disposition makes research interesting and rewarding. Thanks are due to Sophie Thompson for the wonderful job she’s doing co-ordinating our community. Dian and family – for the lone of books (and tuition in Chinese watercolour painting!) And many many more residents of New Brad’ll. Thanks to my partner Ashra and her son Paul (now a Great Linfordian) – we have been New Brad’llites for nearly twenty five years, so I think that qualifies us as locals. We came here because it had the feel of a community. Ashra lived for a time in one of the most significant housing co-ops in the country – Spencer Street. We’re still here. NOTE: poetic license has been used in the section about the Bradwell Mill ghost – names have been invented, but the narrative stays close to the original legend..

 

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