Newburgh within living memory

by Jackie Kindon Summer 2001

Jackie made this presentation when Newburgh entered the Best Village Competition in 2001

" Most of the villagers in the early 20th century were farmers, although coalminers, working in Skelmersdale, lived here. Several bargee families lived in Cinnamon Nook and Culvert Lane. The bargemen went away for weeks on end and often took their families with them.

The majority of farms in Newburgh were arable, although nearly all of them kept cows and horses for their own use. Only one cow was sold at the last of the original Newburgh Fairs, about 90 years ago. Most households kept a pig, which was fed and fattened up for their own table. Pigs were also reared and slaughtered at Hunter’s (now the Post Office) where Mrs Hunter senior, by, what to most of us these days are miraculous means, turned then into home-cured hams, black puddings, savoury ducks and pork pies. Their bacon was sold as far away as Wiltshire and all her cakes, plus loaves and balm cakes, were baked in an iron oven fuelled by wood. Most houses had their own home-cured hams hanging in the larder or cooking over the fire.

Monday – washing day – was always one of the busiest days of the week for the ladies of the village. Up at 6am, fetching water from the well to fill the boiler. Then the fire would be lit underneath and the process would begin. Clothes were soaped on the rubbing boards, then put into the dolly tub and stirred around with a dolly bags (1). Wrung by hand and then put into the boiler – boiling, rinsing, blueing (1) and starching, before being fed through a mangle (2). Ironing was done with fist irons heated on the fire and then covered with a special slipper to keep the clothes clean.

Shopping was done mainly in the village. Hunter’s (now the Post Office) supplied most edibles, the most famous of which was the Newburgh Cake (3). These were made from a pure butter mix of pastry and currants, moulded into 6 inch x 4 inch oblongs. Hundreds were made and people came from miles away to sample them. A thriving tailor’s business was also carried on at Hunter’s and the tailors could be seen sitting cross-legged in the upstairs window sewing jackets, trousers, and even the gamekeeper’s suits for Lord Lathom’s estate.

A weekly shopping excursion could be enjoyed if you were lucky enough to get a seat on the Wagonette which left Parbold for Ormskirk market every Thursday. If it was full, people walked to Ormskirk through Lathom Park. One lady even walked to Preston (19 miles away) to buy her butter.

Miss Wells, Newburgh’s first scholarship girl, walked to Burscough Junction each morning (three miles) to catch the train to her school in Ormskirk.

Trips to Wigan market were a real occasion. Farmers started out at 2am, with horse and carts loaded up with vegetables. An extra horse was taken to the top of Parbold Hill, and took over at the summit. The tired horse was taken back home and the farmer carried on to Wigan.

Potatoes were dug by hand by Irishmen brought over by Ainscough’s and billeted in what was known as the Paddy House at Giant’s Hall Farm. Strawberries were as popular as they are today and plants were sold all over the country.

Holidays were almost unknown, although days out to Southport on the train were a very special occasion. Picnic hampers were also carried up to nearby Ashhurst Beacon or hunter’s Hill.

Entertainment in the village took the form of the Girls’ Friendly Society – a church-based group of 14-20 year olds – and various sporting activities for the boys. The cricket team was a central part of village life, the circle pitch sited two fields further along Cobbs Brow from where it is now. Dances were held fortnightly in the school, and Hunter’s baked all the refreshments.

Children could play safely on and around the roads and the stone outside the Post Office formed first base for may a game of rounders. Shrove Tuesday was always a half-day holiday from school and children went from door to door to see all their friends and relations in the village. At each house they were invited in for pancakes, and if, after accepting one, they were unable to finish it they were carried off in a wheelbarrow and tipped into a midden.

Before the advent of electricity, village streets were lit by oil lamps – one outside the Post Office, one on the end of the Green, and one half way down Ash Brow. Each evening, Mr Greener walked around the village lighting the lamps."

(1)Dolly bag – a muslin bag containing a blue powder for whitening clothes during the rinsing stage
(2)Mangle – a machine which used two rollers to squeeze water and press clothing after washing
(3)In 2002, the year of Queen Elizabeth 2's Golden Jubilee, there was a competition in Newburgh for a new version of the Newburgh Fairing Cake recipe, the original having been lost. It was won by Doris Vickers (who is also the village lollypop lady).