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Oral history collection

Living in Abington


Collected to support the redisplay at Abington Park Museum in 2017, clips of these oral histories can be heard in the Abington galleries exhibition.

Alice Gayton and the park during the Second World War

Alice talks about her father ploughing the area near the sports ground in Abington Park during the Second World War.


'Yes, my dad is the one on the plough. His name is Bill Gayton and it was a family story that in the war Abington Park was ploughed up, or part of it was, in order to grow more vegetables during the war effort, and I did look in some old records and I saw in the Northampton Mercury, of many years ago during the war, that it was agreed that part of Abington Park could be ploughed for that purpose. So, yes, we’re always quite proud of him. It seems...that he ploughed up Abington Park and that’s something to tell, you know, nieces and nephews and grandchildren as well.'

Shelia Freak and playing in Abington Park

Shelia talks about growing up on the Wellingborough road.

'I was born on the Wellingborough Road, in my father’s sweet shop, in the front bedroom. We lived half way between Vernon Street and West Street, next door to the Plymouth Brethrin chapel, and my father had brought the shop in 1923, and I was born in 1932. I had an older brother, and we lived there until 1948. We all knew the people in the shops round about.  We all had the green grocers and the butchers and the bakers, and various other small shops, and everybody knew everybody else. Our play ground was going up the Wellingborough Road to Abington Park. Mind you, we were lucky ‘cause we’d got the Racecourse not far away, and could also get down to the meadow. But Abington Park was where we all played, always.
A very friendly community. On one side as I said we had the chapel, and on the other side, we had a green grocers. I remember before the war… I was seven when the war broke out… and I remember before then, how we used to have the Carnival go up the road, and everybody put flags out. My father used to put a giant union jack out, and the greengrocer next door used to put the welsh dragon out, ‘cause he was a Welshman. We always used to watch. It was great fun, it was a great day. It was a very busy road of course, but I mean, much quieter than now.'

Wendy Bland and performing at Abington Park

Wendy talks about performing in a Midsummer Night's Dream with Vera Pettit's dance school.

'We were part of Vera Pettit’s – who was a well-known dance teacher on the Barrack Road, bottom of the Racecourse, Langham Place I think it’s called. And, she was obviously asked to provide lots of girls that could be the fairies for a fortnight. And we had a great time rehearsing and going on when the play was taking part. Being as young as that we didn’t really understand Shakespeare, but we knew when we were told to go on. It was an enjoyable fortnight, it was exciting to be doing something different than just the normal. In the war years when you only had so much food and it was a big excitement to go there on the bus every night. We were performing in front of a lot of people. Normally, we did our displays either at village halls or the largest place we did was New Theatre when it was there is Abington Street, and another one at the Salon that used to be a dance hall in those days, where the rugby team is now at St. James. I can’t remember much about the dance routine but it was a combination of anything we were told to do to make the play look good with the young elves, I think they were called elves, the boys – running around and being a bit naughty as well, that was good fun. It was a summer evening. I don’t know the month but it was beautiful, warm weather. None of us were cold in these flimsy fairy dresses. I think we enjoyed wearing the lipstick, thinking we were grown up. My mum decided she was in charge of the lipstick, because mum was very glamorous, and she always made an effort even in the war to have a little bit of makeup on. And she was beautiful. She was about 5 ft. 2, very slim, about seven and a half to eight stone, and everybody said wow.  In the war, everybody was just sort of scrubbing steps and doing that, and mum still did that, but still dolled up a bit. And I suppose she was the one who produced the lipstick. And she put it on all of we young girls, and we thought it was so grown up to have lipstick. She accentuated the top of the lip to a cupid style and that made us laugh even more. We were very thrilled to have that on every night for two weeks, we thought that was wonderful.'