Miss Frances Biddle of Malt Mill Lane, Alcester, was an old lady when she typed out some of her memories of her childhood in Alcester. She died only a year or two ago and was born in the first half of the first decade of this century. Some of her recollections make inter esting reading.
'There was a n old-fashioned Gruel House at the back of what is now the Church House, where every Monday a soup kitchen was set up by the ladies of the Church. Two big coppers were filled with bones, vegetables, lentils,etc. and the poor of the town used to bring cans and jugs to be filled with this soup free. The custom was carried on right up to the time when I was a little girl at school and until the new Church House was built.'
'This was also the time of the "Dinner Bell" the tenor bell which was briskly rung from the church tower every Sunday at 1 p.m. to remind the men drinking in the inns that their dinner was on the table. This custom ceased at the start of hostilities with Germany in 1939.
'The town was lighted by the old gas lamps. The lamplighter would tramp round the town carrying a long pole with a hook on the end and light up each lamp by pulling on the small ring attached to a small chain operating the switch half an hour before sundown and returning half an hour before midnight to put them out.
'A special feature of the summer time was the horse-drawn water cart which sluiced the roads and gulleys daily, leaving behind a fresh, clean smell, adding to the scent of full-blown may, with honeysuckle and meadow sweet wafting over the town, mingling with the lovely perfume from the magnificent lime trees that grew around the church; in full bloom they were one of the sights of Alcester.
'Empire Day was always celebrated with the singing of pat riotic songs at school in the morning and the rest of the day was holiday, with sports in the then Recreation Ground and lovely teas spread in the streets of Malt Mill Lane and Bleachfield Street - the houses and streets decorated with bunting and evergreens. The com petition between the two streets was fierce indeed, for at 3 p.m. the police inspector, the Hight Bailiff and Court Leet would walk the two streets and a prize was always given for the best decorated house: for us little girls our mothers would make little aprons of white crepe paper and bonnets of red, with blue ties and streamers, which we proudly wore during Empire Day. The day was always rounded off with the town band playing in the Recreation Ground during the evening.
Alcester & District Local History Society
Summer 1985 Index