which consists of the villages of Crich, Fritchley and Whatstandwell


Memories recorded by Tony Lester in 2003

One of the big events when we were at school was road mending (a custom that used to take place years ago). It involved a big black steam wagon that spread the red hot tar on the road, then a lorry spread 'chatter' (pea gravel) over it and then the steam roller finished the job off. The Market Place and adjoining road were soon done, even Sheaf Lane (what a pathetic state it is in now!) We spent hours watching the men, with boss man Joe Crisp, suggesting we kept out of the road (or words to that effect). Another long gone worker was the 'length man'. As the name suggests, he had a set length of road, pavement, verges, ditches and drains to tend. He had a barrow with a spade and brush etc. and kept his length spotless. One such man was Mr Spendlove from Whatstandwell, a tall man with a moustache and he always wore a Trilby. I spent a lot of time watching and talking to him, a calm, patient man. He used to sit on the stone bench on the Tors, (his patch) and have his lunch, washed down with a bottle of cold tea. His son Fred ran various football teams.

Can anyone remember a bi-plane (two wings) making a forced landing in one of Bryans fields at the end of Stones Lane? I can't remember how it was moved.

Crich Cricket Club used to play on the Recreation Ground, I have a photo of the pavilion when it stood in the corner near the stone railway bridge taken in 1932. It was moved soon after up Stones Lane to the 'top doctor' ground, where it stayed until burnt down in later years.

In the late 1930s and onwards, I used to watch Crich play, on one of their 'day' long matches, Percy Bendall scored a century before lunch and Roy Hudson took the 'cap' round for a collection. Percy used to do a bit of slow bowling in a crisis and quite often picked up a wicket or two, when people tried to hit his easy looking bowling out of the ground. After the pavilion had gone, tennis courts and a bowling green (where the football pitch is now) were built. A lot of soil was moved from the bank near the beech trees, across to the other side to build up the green. A set of rails were laid corner to corner and an iron truck was used to move the soil. We used to ride on the truck at night time and weekends, until we were chased off. After the war started they both ceased to be used. The courts gradually 'disappeared', the posts and wire netting that is. The green was used for cricket and football by males of all ages and all the lush grass was soon kicked off.

After a match of 'massed mayhem' that passed for football, most people retired to sit on the seats for a postmortem on the game. We lads started playing around five o'clock and when the men finished work they joined in. Despite the 'enthusiasm' there were only a few minor injuries. Crich had several football teams that I remember. The Rangers played one season on the 'top doctor' ground. The cricket team finished their last match of the season, then The Rangers had a friendly match on it. What sacrilege of the pitch!!

The next season, they moved to the field over the wall, a flatter and bigger pitch. They had many 'epic' battles with the likes of Wirksworth, Wessington and the main enemy Youlgreave. Both Crich and Youlgreave used to 'fetch players in' and usually won all of the trophies between them. They both played very good football.

They then moved to a field down the Tenacre, past Fishpond Farm on the right. In later years Crich boys also used it, then moved across to the other side of the road.

Crich United played in a field past the end of Bulling Lane.

Whatstandwell youth club played on the Chase fields.

Crich boys played friendlies in their first season. We had one match against a Strutts school team at Belper (the best pitch we ever played on, with nets as well!!) A couple or so got on the bus, but the rest of us had to walk it. We eventually won the game by fifteen goals to one. Jack (Slick) Wragg scored six goals from centre forward.

October was Crich fair time and I used to sit in our window bottom and watch for Timmy Ray's big showman's engine, pulling a caravan and trailer into the Dutchman croft. He later went and fetched the rest of the equipment. We used to go and watch them setting up the roundabout (carousel) with its horses, the swingboats, coconut shies, rifle range, ball in the bucket, roll a penny (I am sure the lines used to move when the pennies got near them) and the slot machines. After visiting the fair we always saved a copper or two for chips and peas from Mrs Brumwells, that was really living!!! The fair stayed open for two to three weeks, then everything was packed away into the big wagons and they wintered in the Croft.

Timmy was a nice old man and he used to order coal from Dad. When he died, he was buried in the old churchyard. If you walk from the old to the new burial ground at the far end, he was buried near the top of the path, later joined by his wife. I think a man called Bishop took over. One year, another fair came but of season' (was it Ogles'?-), their main attraction was the chair-o-planes.

As it is the 'festive season' I will try and remember some of the old Christmas times. At school we used to make paper chains, lanterns and Xmas cards and of course we sang carols. Some of us used to go carol singing and sometimes we were asked inside to sing (not just 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas' like you get these days, if at all) but a 'mini' selection. We usually got a mince pie and some coppers. The Church Choir and Bessie Brewer's Choir used to sing around the villages.

Crich Band used to play on Christmas morning. We met on the Jubilee around eight o'clock and started at Mr Edwards. Later Mr Hetherington's then up Coast Hill, through the fields stopping to play a carol for Jack Haslam who used to be in the band. We then went around the Town End and then headed down Crich, calling at Mr Longland at The Mount (who usually gave us a drink of sherry) and then to the Market Place where we always played 'Hail Smiling Morn' and other carols. Next we went on to the doctors, down The Common and finished at New Road, usually around one o'clock. We had tired legs, sore lips, were very hungry and were sometimes very wet. Some mornings when there had been a hard frost, the valves on the instruments would 'freeze up'. A spot.of anti-freeze and a rag wrapped round them kept mine working.

Sometimes when it snowed before Christmas, cars and lorries had snow chains fitted and they made a right noise when they got down to the bare road. I don't think some buses could use them for insurance reasons. In the war years, I had to go round with Dad in the lorry selling greengroceries on a Saturday afternoon. We went from Dial Yard to Fritchley, finishing at Mrs Smith’s cottage on Bullbridge Hill. On the Saturday before Christmas, she always gave Dad and I a sherry and some mince pies. One year a lady down The Common gave me a diary and a pen. When I got back to the lorry, in the light I found that the diary was from the year before, but the pen was made of glass, with a round black stem and a white fluted nib part. I still have the pen at home.

Around this time of year (just before Christmas) we had our party at the Baptist Chapel. We had our tea then played games, after which we all received our 'prizes'. Everyone had a book, the more attendances, the better the book. Several of us usually topped the 100 mark out of a possible 104. One year, the vicars wife, (Mrs Jones a nice friendly lady) bought all of the children up Coast Hill a present. Mine was a circular railway track with Minnie and Mickey Mouse pumping a hand truck round and round. At home one year, one of our presents was a pair of clogs each, from an old cobbler at Alfreton, who made them to measure. My sister Joyce had a red pair, brother Michaels were green and mine were black. They were strange at first but comfortable when we got used to them and were not heavy. They were a bit noisy until Dad filled in between the 'irons' with pit belting, this also made them last longer before re-ironing. I never had wet or cold feet whilst wearing them.

POSTSCRIPT by Maurice Hudson

The bi-plane landing in the field at Coddington. I have been making a few calls myself to find out how the aircraft was removed, but to no avail as yet.
lane crash at CrichI am enclosing attached to a card, a piece of wood fragment from that plane. On that card I had written :-
Oct 24th, 1941. Out of a Queen Bee port lower wing, which had forced landed in J. Bryan Peaches field at Coddington. The pilot, Officer J. C. Rushton, stationed at the aerodrome at St. Athans, Glamorgan. The plane was going to Scotland and landed at 550 feet above sea level.

Further reference to the football match at Belper. Yes, only two got on the bus, but two of us were on bicycles. It was the slowest bike ride I'd ever had to Belper. On reaching Belper we rode on ahead to tell the opposing team and the two who had got on the bus, that the rest were getting near. It was a lovely sunny day.

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