Norley Village - some memories of the past by Mary Ramskill
When I first came to this village it really was a village in the full sense of the word. Finger Post Lane was what we now call a one way street. There was a firm called Flathers which trucked road sand to the new motorway at Frodsham. At least that was how we saw it. Most of the locals were related to each other and were either very helpful amongst themselves or could be ‘very gossipy’. They were nevertheless great people to be around. After 18 years I was accepted to a degree, I suppose, because of the fact that 2 of my children were born here. It seems like another life now. Totally different way of doing things.
We had 4 places of worship, 2 pubs, a guest house, 6 shops, a bank, a bakery, a Post Office, a firm which did joinery and made coffins and saw to burials and other useful things. (I broke a window in my front door which was mended before my husband came home from work). One time there a was farmer who was so mean he took a corpse to the Parish Church on a wheelbarrow. There was one school without flush toilets and the loveliest atmosphere you could find and another one by the Forest which looked after the children of mainly Theatrical parents. We had the Forresters ‘club’ (they could have a drink) down by the now lived in Chapel on School Bank and the Temperance Society which built the now Norley Village Hall (1874 is set in stone on the front). They used to have dances during which the fiddler got considerably drunker as the evenings wore one. I remember Sammy falling off his bike at the top of Cheese Hill many a time when I first came here. There was a fully working Butcher in School Bank - or the bottom of Hough Lane as my children used to call it. There was and still is a Norley Parish Council.
There was a tennis court behind the houses at what was called the Edwards Corner and is now Finger Post/High Street. The W.I. met in Temperance hall and there were dances in both the hall and the little chapel building in School Bank. A very popular Badminton Group played with several sets in leagues in the hall. Another popular pastime was bowls downs at ’The Tiger’s’. There are now 2 greens today. An annual dance was held upstairs of the big barn at Norley Hall. The Sunday School children went for an annual picnic up in the hill by horse and cart. The WI ran a library in the Village Hall, did plays and had the most wonderful evening meals - I’m sorry I cannot remember why just the scrumptious food. There was an annual service with the Vicar blessing the crops and a supper afterwards. Sundays, we played whist after church or had singalongs round the piano. We made our own entertainment.
We had Red squirrels in the forest - the most beautiful creatures to watch, race horses with their own race track - it was not unusual to find a jockey on foot looking for his horse, and several farms with mainly Friesian cows which were milked by hand. What some call the WI garden in Post Office Lane was called the Memorial Garden in memory of those who died in, I think, the first world war. There is a list in the Parish Church of St. John.
We could walk anywhere day or night without thought. People looked after each other in the old way which was left from the years of candles and oil lamps. One old farmer even took a live hen to market every Friday, on the bus.
It was a lovely village to walk through, people cut their own ‘hedge cops’ and mowed the grass outside their own houses, gossiped on doorsteps, went shopping for each other. They would say where are you going meaning I would like some milk if you are going to the farm etc. - or sometimes of course just being nosy.
We had skylarks, cuckoos, open fires and bicycles. There was never a moment free.
It is the same and yet changing all the time.
We have a lovely new school with a field big enough to play football and have sports on. The older children go to school by bus and most of the younger ones come by car. We now have one real old fashioned pub with very good food, another with wonderful modern cuisine although not a pub in the old fashioned sense. Only 1 (but excellent) village shop.
From most people working from home and either walking or biking to work, many now work from home using spare rooms, ‘sheds’, garages, attics any place ingenuity can put them. Some commute (daily or weekly) to far distant places where ‘locals’ in our other lives would have put on a hat, packed sandwiches and gone on the ‘chara’ for a day and thought how exciting. Most if not all of the cottages and houses have been brought up to modern standards. Lovely bright new kitchens and bathrooms have had to be added. Rooms have been built into roofs, added on or generally altered. There is probably not a home that has not been altered in some way. We all have electricity which is a boon to washing, lighting and every day life. In the other life, the electricity went off in storms and high winds etc.
The Village Hall is being ‘done up’ in order for the Scouts, Hall, Bowling club, and the new play area to become the ‘Norley Village Trust or some name like it. It, like the village has just ‘growed like Topsy’.
There are goats where we used to have cattle, sheep abound, dogs have to be kept on a lead (no fouling). It is nice to see children riding horses once again although nowhere near as popular as it was. Just about every house has a TV, maybe several. We entertain ourselves in the home. In the Hall there is Yoga, Dance, Badminton, Kung Fu?, Bowls (down at the Tiger’s or behind the Hall), the tennis court has gone but the Play Area is very popular.
It would be very nice if anyone could add to all this and when I can find them there will be pictures - but if you have some interesting old pictures, do drop some copies off at the school.
My Dad, Reg Manwering, grew up in Ashton Lane and moved to Delamere, where he worked at the Forestry Commission, after he married Mum. But he still kept a strong connection to Norley and played the organ for 50 years at the Zion chapel.
His father, Albert, used to visit the Carriers back in the day when it was a proper pub – for old men drinking beer, smoking their pipes and playing dominoes.
We used to walk through the forest on a Saturday morning up to Hatchmere to catch the morning bus to Frodsham to visit my grandparents and come back on the afternoon or evening bus. If we were feeling really brave we would go to the slot machines and café near the Carriers and put a penny in to receive our electric shock!
I remember the Forest school, always known as the Jewish school when we were young.
I don’t know if you have a copy of Three parishes by Tom Wright (my Dad’s cousin) but it has lots of old photographs and makes interesting reading for anyone interested in Norley’s history.
Mrs Jan Wale