Life story of Mr Charles Wright born in Wilburton in aprox 1864
My Life story by Charles Wright of Hadden Hall Haddenham
I am 70yrs old. I remember starting school in Wilburton. My father & brother were wheelrights in the village. They were not natives of the village they moved from Gamlingay & settled in Wilburton.
They did a lot of building work in the village including St Peter’s Hall and The Rectory House, the home of the Pell family.
I had to start work early as my father was in poor health. I left school at the age of 9yrs; by that time I had risen to top of my school. The schools at that time were divided into last class, third class, second & first class. The top row of the class was the highest you could get, we had to take slates home to do sums (etc.) & pay 2d pence on a Monday.
I started work at 9yrs on a farm for a farmer name Uffendale, driving horses for the plough. The horse keeper’s name was Powers nick name (Brownie) I was favourite with him. I started with him so I stayed for 2yrs.
The next place was with a yeoman farmer so didn’t stay long as he was not very free with his pay. I was on 4s/6d a week, I asked for 5s but he would not give it to me so I went to another farmer. He said he would give me 5s a week & to start on Monday. I stayed there till I was 14yrs. I was yardman & had to feed all the animals. After some time I had to decide what I wanted to do, whether to be a wheelwright. I hadn’t any liking for wheelwright so decided & went to work for another yeoman farmer who lived in a beautiful house & taught me a lot.
Of course the pay was not much & I was approaching 19ys. I talked to my cousin who had a nice place called Poplar Lodge & he offered me 11s a week to work for him in his greenhouses growing tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.
I did not like this work so decided to advertise for a place, but that meant leaving home. I was a singer in the church choir & had spent a lot of money training. I was an alto singer. I advertised & had 2 answers, one was from a nurseryman & one from a German who had a large establishment of coach servants & carriages.
I only stayed a year as my health was not too good so l came back to Wilburton. In October I got a job in March working for a Doctor, he made me his assistant mixing medicines, but alas we fell out.
From then on I had a lot of jobs in various counties. I eventually came back to Wilburton as my father’s health was not too good, he had got behind with his rent to the Lord of the Manor & was threatened with eviction so I paid the rent. I told him not to bother with the rent anymore, so I bought a plot of land & built a cottage for my parents. I helped as a bricklayer’s labourer & dug the well myself for water. I moved a few bits & pieces in & installed my parents, I was asked what I was going to do so I went to work for a builder at Haddenham. He wanted me to look after a house until the owner wanted it as I had had enough of London so I came to live in Haddenham. I lived there for 6 months on my own keeping the place aired, then I worked for the owner.
After 3 yrs I met & married a Haddenham girl so I had to look for a cottage. Her father gave us a cottage & after 1 yr we had a son. Soon after he was born my wife was taken ill & began to lose the use in her legs, she had creeping paralysis, I had to wheel her about in a bath chair.
I kept my employment for 15yrs, my father died and my mother came to live with us. She then had a stroke so I was looking after two invalids. I had to look after things the best I could. Eventually I lost both my mother & my wife.
My employer was made Sheriff so he bought a car & wanted someone who could look after engines which I could not.
I looked after my wife for three months day & night so I took what work I could get & worked for a farmer for 1/6s a day after my wife died. I sold all my furniture & let part of my house. The tenant’s wife agreeing to look after us which she didn’t.
I managed to get a man & wife to look after us. This went on for 3yrs. I got tired of this life so I married again to a young woman from Feltham, Middlesex. She was a good wife & looked after us well.
Through the years I looked after 200 pigs for a farmer who’s sons had been called to war. I had to feed them morning & night. I was glad when the war ended.
Before my father died I started farming but farming was at its worst. Wheat was 10s a comb & 8 week old pigs were 2/6p. Rent for the land was £2 & 14s for drainage (etc). When my 2yrs were nearly up I tried to buy the land & offered the owner £1/10s an acre but he wanted £2 so I left just before my time was up & my father finished the time for me.
My next job was at Hinton Hall as a milkman, I left there & went to work at Ivy Lodge as a gardener for Mr Ireland who rented the place, I was with him for 7yrs.
After he left I worked for a Dr Howe & then for his successor Dr Fairweather where I am to this day. He was a Scotchman so I have worked for a Scotchman, Irishman, German, Dutchman. I have also been a fruit grower, landlord.
What changes there have been. Nearly all the old faces I new as boy have now gone. When I lost my wife I used to bike to London with a trailer on the back with my son in it. I would find work for 6 months or 6 weeks so I knew London fairly well.
One of my hobbies was fishing. As a boy I would often spend the day fishing in Wilburton drains. Another was an interest in animals & birds, I used to love to go to the Royal Aquarium to see Blondin wheel a barrow to the top with a man in it, also the Agriculture Hall, the show & military tournaments. Once I went in for rearing fowl all sorts & hundreds of them. I thought I was on the road to prosperity but I had a garden & they would scratch up everything I set, so I shut them in & they started eating all the eggs, so I sold them.
I was once asked to be a J.P. but that was the time when my wife was ill. I had a fondness for music I managed to save 4s so I walked 14 miles to Ely to buy a concertina, it was the only one in the sale. I had no choice but to walk as I had not a penny left to my name. I was living in Wilburton when I was older I was trained for the choir & had to sing in special services at Ely Cathedral. My mother was a good woman & was converted in early life & was a good influence on my life. She & I were both baptised at Haddenham. Although she is dead, her influence lives on as she & her mother were members of Wilburton chapel for 30-40 yrs.