Early Impressions of Rolleston

Mrs Mary Joyce Baxter (nee Penlington) moved to Rolleston in 1939 at the age of 11and in recent years has returned to visit old friends. Here are some of her early recollections of the village.

The day I passed my 11 plus examination, my father told me we would soon be moving to Rolleston where we would have a bigger house and garden. Unfortunately as soon as the Education Authority knew about the move, they said I was not now eligible for a place at one of the schools in Burton-upon-Trent as we were leaving the borough. 

Over the next weeks, my mother prepared for the move but she was also trying to fight the bureaucrats at the Town Hall to try and make it possible for me to take the place to which she felt I was entitled. Her arguments were no use and so I went to the country school. Looking back, I have never regretted this for I made many friends there. 

Our new house was on the outskirts of the village, one of three belonging to the railway and stood behind the station. On the day of the move my younger brother David and I were told to go to the village and find out where the shops and school were.

It was a pleasant walk along the tree shaded road in the June sunshine for there was so much to see as until then we had lived in a town.

The village was a delight to us; the brook running through the main part was fascinating. We stood intrigued watching a Co op delivery van splash its way through the ford. A narrow footbridge spanned the shallow water which cleared quickly and we saw fish swimming in the deeper water. Further along, we passed the rectory where later, we would enjoy the church garden parties. The church stood opposite and between it and the only public house in the village, was a footpath which we learned later, led to a field known as the Croft. The Spread Eagle, an old coaching inn stood on the banks of the brook which flowed gently beside the road. 

We crossed a little humped stone bridge to walk beside the brook, where a little further along we saw several alms houses.

Across from the Spread eagle, we found the post office run by two elderly sisters who dealt out stamps and postal orders and probably passed on and received local gossip. Nearby was the smithy and as we turned back to walk homeward we found the bakery. Even now, the delicious smell of baking bread takes me back and once again I am a child enjoying the sights, smells and sounds I knew then.

The way now led past the back of the Methodist chapel. We found the entrance down a narrow side lane. And to our joy, found this led to the butcher's shop and a small general shop in whose tiny window, we saw an array of sweets. Suddenly we felt hungry but with only our pocket money pennies, we could not buy much. Mrs. Windridge the shop keeper, attired in a wrap around floral apron patiently waited whilst we made our choice. Her shop became a favourite calling place after school. This we found just around the next corner. 

We discovered later that the school consisted of three classrooms, the two infants classes, taught by Miss Redfern, who when I saw her at least twenty years later, did not look any older than when we first met. Mrs. Cotton took the next classes and the head mistress, Miss Dobson, the two senior classes. Being almost eleven, I was placed in the top class with nine other pupils for the few weeks remaining of the term.

A short distance away, we recognised the main road where on our left we could see the village cricket field. Across from this, a row of cottages we had passed earlier and several houses, all with a well kept, neat front garden. 

One of these had been turned into a shop which had to be approached by a path at the side of the garden. As we gazed through the window wondering whether this would be a good place to spend our Saturday pennies, we were startled by a voice behind us enquiring what we wanted.

Mrs. Royle was a dour Scottish lady who intimidated all the village children. Well built, with iron grey hair dragged tightly back into a bun, she towered over us and we trembled with apprehension. When she heard we had no money to spend, she left us and we hurried away before she could call us back. Two months later, when war was declared, we were glad to spend our pennies there. Once when she received a rare supply of ice cream, I remember she weighed it on her scales, allowing each child about two ounces each. Her daughter Emily helped in the shop and we peered through the window when we were sent for shopping, hoping that she would be there to serve us.

Further along, through a gap in the hedge, we saw a pond and heard the cheep of water hen chicks. This became a favourite place to stop on the way from school.

Our house was on an unmade road called South Hill behind the railway station which is now closed. We had quite a large garden which was to prove useful later during the war. There was a large plot of land next to it with a large notice proclaiming it to be 'For Sale'. When war started, my father and Mr. Farr who lived on the other side of this land, were asked if they would like to use it to grow vegetables. This they did throughout the war years when the plot was always known and referred to by everyone as 'The Land For Sale.'

This recollection of Rolleston has stayed with me through the years. Although I have visited and worked in many other places has always been recalled with affection. 

© Mary Joyce Baxter

Mrs Baxter, who is also a keen photographer, has just published a collection of poetry “Reflections”, some of the pictures and poems drawing on her memories of the village and local area. Price £2.50, with 50p going to Cancer Research, from Mrs Baxter, 48 Lindale Crescent, Burnley, Lancs. .BB10 1EX

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Last updated: 18 December 2005