What a place Wray village is

A letter sent to a farmer in the Lune Valley describes people and their busy lives in the village of Wray before the coming of World War One.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 3:46 pm
Rose Mary Shackleton, landlady of the New In public house, Wray, circa 1900. Picture courtesy of David Kenyon.

his historical article is taken from a letter entitled ‘Old memories from one who never forgets.’

The letter describes life in the village of Wray before WWI and was sent to the late Norval Bargh who farmed at Claughton Hall farm in the Lune Valley.

“What a place the village of Wray, near Lancaster. It’s composed of one long street, beginning at the New Inn, an old lady named Mrs Shackleton, the landlady. She had white hair and wore a black lace cap sort of thing trimmed with white lace.

Three generations of John Singleton pose for the camera, circa 1932. Swill basket making was ordinarily carried out inside the workshop as the materials needed to be worked whilst damp; outside the wind and sun would dry them out. Picture courtesy of David Kenyon.

Miss Rose Shackleton was her daughter and Leonard was son. Rose was tall and looked after the animals, but her special task was to drive the horse and cab to Hornby Station then pick up passengers. Rose was like her mother, very kindly.

There were some cottages, in one lived Bill Bowman, a gamekeeper for the Hornby Castle estate.

Closeby was the Wesleyan Chapel. Then came the Friends Meeting House or Quaker Chapel.

Opposite was the ‘sweet shop’ which was part of a cottage lived in by a Richard and Libby Towers, Quakers and caretakers of the Quaker Chapel.

Wray main street prior to 1887. Mr Townson's butchers cart can be seen on the right of the picture standing outside his shop where people could buy poultry giblets to make a good meal for six pence. Picture courtesy of David Kenyon.

Nearby were a few cottages and then came the high wall built to prevent anyone from seeing into the private grounds of Wray House, the home of some people named Wright.

The Singletons had the George and Dragon Hotel. As well as running the hotel the Singletons and their son made a kind of basket commonly called a swill, woven from strips of oak and used by farmers when gathering the potato crops.

Next came Mr Townson’s butchers shop where people could buy the giblets from the poultry for sixpence, and what delicious meals could be enjoyed by whole families including the cats.

On the other side of the road was The Coffee Tavern, a Quaker family lived there called Howson.

Mr James Smith, headmaster of Pooleys Endowed School with the Wray Girls Friendly Society outside the school house in 1907. The girls are the winners of the Southport Musical Festival shield. Picture courtesy of David Kenyon.

Then after a cottage and barn came the Post Office run by Mrs Miller, whose husband was the post master. Mr Miller also made wooden clog blocks and soles.

For a small village there were quite a large number of unmarried ladies, the Misses Arkwrights, Miss Dugdale, two Miss Parkers, two Miss Carters and Miss Grime whose house was rather large and posh, but she was a very charming and kindly lady.

Next door to the Carters a Miss Alice Moss came to live, and further along Miss Geoffreys, the infant teacher at Pooley’s School. She was a tall stately lady and a musician, somewhat shy, but was fond of liquors and often quite tipsy, but children were really fond of this lady.

The schoolmaster was James Smith who was respected by the pupils. Mrs Smith was the sewing mistress, a kind motherly woman, loved by the girls.

This photograph taken around 1950 shows Thomas Parker Foxcroft, a descendant of Mr Isaac Parker who ran the Joiners and Cabinet makers workshop at the time the letter was written, Mr Foxcroft is making a cart wheel in his workshop in Wray, the workshop uis probably the same as it was fifty years ago. Picture courtesy of David Kenyon.

Mr and Mrs Williamson had the grocer’s shop at the entrance of School Lane, they sold bread, cakes and tea cakes besides groceries, vegetables, sweets and soft drinks.

The old police station property came after theWilliamsons but police no longer used it. A builder named Parker lived behind those closed doors.

The local policeman lived further along. PC Becket was well liked, along with his wife and four daughters, there would have been five but one twin girl called Connie died young.

On the other side of the street was the joiners shop. Isaac Parker and his son Thomas ran the business, Joiners and Cabinet Maker, they were wheelwrights too, they also made coffins.

Cartwheels were taken to the blacksmiths to have iron hoops put on. The village children loved to watch David Travis the blacksmith at work, especially when he was shoeing horses, enjoying the smell of the hooves being burnt by the hot shoes.

What sheer delight there was in those days before the wretched 1914-1918 war and the Boer War was being forgotten.

Tailor's workshop, Roeburn House, Main Street, Wray, circa 1910. Richard Kenyon is working with his son, Ronald Kenyon, in their workshop which was situated in the basement of Roseburn House. Sadly, Ronald died only a few years after this photograph was taken, catching tuberculosis in 1914 at the age of 22. Picture courtesy of David Kenyon.

Before the 14-18 war the village was surrounded by woods, what a pleasure it was to wander along those lanes, peaceful and beautiful with the smell of leaves and flowers, with birds singing merrily and hatching out their young in those cleverly built nests.

The church was about the centre of the village. The Revd C L Reynolds the vicar was an elderly man with a long white beard, who liked to entertain the younger children of the village to tea parties. His worthy housekeeper and her niece Doris prepared all sorts of dainties.

Job Kenyon had the coal business and was the carrier to and from Lancaster in addition to being a farmer, his daughter Miss Annie Kenyon the organist of the Free Church, and also a clever violin player.

Job and his wife Maggie also had four sons, Billy, Edward, Alec and John.

Richard Kenyon was the high class tailor, a stern kind of man with a white beard, a strict disciplinarian with his family.

Richard and Jessie had three sons and three daughters who were very good looking.

The eldest son lived in the village and finished clog soles to go to firms in Lancaster, besides having a small farm and grocery business as well as keeping poultry.

There was another grocer’s shop in the village kept by George Newman Croft who was also the local shoe repairers, he also had a fried fish and chip business.

The men of the village, some worked on the railway and some for the council keeping the roads in order. Quite a few worked for the Hornby Castle Estate then owned by the Foster family, many making bricks at the Claughton Brickyard, some were wood cutters and worked for the Stephenson family who also made clog blocks and sold chips and rough logs for firewood and kindling.

At one time there was a silk mill but this place had closed down and part of the old mill was used as a bobbin mill where brush heads were made on the lathes. Peter Grant was the boss and Jack Walmsley worked for him.

A large house near the Mill was occupied by Joe Lyons and his wife and son Joe. Mr Lyons was one of the members of the Lyons Boot and Shoe firm atLancaster, the family later emigrated to Australia. Colin Dulstan and his wife lived close by. Mr Dulstan was the head gamekeeper for the Hornby Castle Estate, he seemed rather a stern unfriendly man and didn’t attract anyone’s respect, and woe betide any cats which might come within range of his gun or get into any of his traps, their owners would never see their cats again.

Mr Dulstan used to breed dogs to train as gun dogs.

A family called Stavely lived at the farmhouse opposite the church gates, and when they moved away William Askew came along with his wife and family.

Isaac and Ellen Bargh lived at Procter’s farm, situated between Wray House and the vicarage. The family had one daughter and five sons.

Two bachelors named Joseph and John Alderson had a tobacconist shop, they were also the village barbers and very good tailors too.

John was a part-time postman and dear kind Parker Ormandy had the longest and hardest round.

People managed to enjoy doing needlework or playing the piano, violin, harmonium or mouth organ.

In those far off days two blind men occasionally visited the village, one was a brilliant organist, he gave organ recitals at the village Church of England and the other came to preach at the Free Church.

Around this time King Edward and Queen Alexandra were on the throne, everyone admired their beautiful stately Queen, but most elderly people still revered the memory, ways and strictness of Queen Victoria.

Seven years soon passed by and King Edward seventh died, the Duke and Duchess of York became King George the fifth and Queen Mary, lots of humble cottagers were proved to have their portraits hanging on their walls, but the coronation was overshadowed by rumours of making preparations for war.”