Village Life 100 years ago

Thanks to Alan Rich for sharing this account by a local villager of her everyday life as a child in the valley 100 years ago.

"The Penrith, Keswick and Cockermouth railway was near my home in Newbiggin, and on Sunday morning as there were no trains, my brother and I would scramble up the bank to meet our good friend the Station Master, who took us for a long walk by the line. We gathered wild Marguerites, otherwise Dog Daisies, which were plentiful, to take home, and fill the vases. Goats were also a feature of the railway banks, they were gathered there during the day, as they belonged to the railway workers who tethered them on the railway embankments to graze.

Another feature was heaps of stones by the roadside and seeing the stone breakers at work. This was quite a skilled craft, the stones were cobbles of smooth granite, found in the rivers and becks of Cumbria, and broke into small pieces ready for resurfacing the roads. Each section of the road was maintained by a roadman. I remember Jonah Pears, an interesting venerable old gentleman with snow white hair and beard, whom I often stopped to chat to on my way to school. He was so pleasant and cheerful to talk to, with many wise sayings. He would be sitting by a heap of stones, hard at work breaking them to be ready for road repairing.

There was much excitement in the village when the Romany Gipsies came and encamped in the green lanes or lonnins, as they are known in Cumbria. I would see them on my lonely walks, and thought their Caravans were so picturesque. I was certainly never afraid of them. They always seemed very busy, preparing their wares to sell to the villagers. They made clothes pegs and baskets, also whistles, skipping ropes, tops to spin and wooden hoops for the children. In the Autumn would come the tinkers to mend one’s pans and kettles, and to sharpen knives and scissors. Men from France too would come with fine big onions to sell. We always bought enough to last us through the winter months."

Transcribed by Dr A.J. Rich from a 1994 document written by Mary Potter who was aged 6 in 1905.