April 28th 1998
Dear Mrs Williams,
It is always good to see a letter regarding the land of my birth, Far Cotton; whether in a time of adversity or otherwise. You asked for stories etc. of the awful flood of 1939. I haven't much to tell, but here goes!
I was fourteen years old at the time and in my first job at Singer Sewing Machine Co. of 43, Gold Street, a shop still in existence. I was training to be a mechanic, a profession which lasted a lifetime for me. On the day of the floods I had gone to work on my bicycle from Eastfield Road, Far Cotton, but by lunch time the flooding was heard to be so very bad that my foreman said I should go home whilst I had the chance. The water was pretty bad at the bottom of Bridge Street and Cattle Market, plus the Promenade and the market itself were all under water as on Good Friday last.
A row of stone cottages in Navigation Row plus the Malt Shovel Tavern and some of Northampton Brewery were all under water. I rode my bike to the edge of the rising waters and then managed to cling to the back of a lorry. The only way that this vehicle could get through the water on the South-side of the river was to turn into and through the old L.M.S. Goods yard and then come out onto the road at the side of the Old White Hart Hotel. I finally made it, still clinging to this lorry and with the water covering my knees.
We had a house keeper at that time, my mum having died two years previously, who came from "Jimmy's End", and of course she wanted to get home if she possibly could. As the waters had subsided a little I remember getting her up onto the back of a lorry with quite a few others and journeying through to St James. Mrs Butcher lived in what was "Facer's Yard" - this was situated opposite the pub which was, I believe,"The Tramcar", then "The Green Man" and now "The Thomas a Becket". Also Churches shoe factory, then Padmore and Barnes, which was flooded again this month. Mrs Butcher was so very relieved to find that her cottage had not been touched by the water, and so, apart from getting her feet and legs wet as she got down from the lorry and waded up the yard, she escaped all the trauma that most neighbours had to suffer. Then, to get home to Far Cotton, I managed a ride on a horse and dray through both lots of flooding.
The marks are still there, I believe, on both Ashford's Corner Pharmacy and on the "Pomfret" pub, to show folks just how deep the water was. I know that we all did what we could to alleviate the suffering as people have done this time. Surprising how love and heroism show up in a practical way when in a time of adversity. May I say that I hope my little story proves of interest and should there be anything that I can tell you of old Far Cotton, then I would even come along to my old schools to speak maybe of life as it was in what we used to call "The Railway Village".
Thank you for reading this. At my age, as with most folk, we do enjoy our reminiscences. Perhaps you would like this copy of a poem that they published in the "Chronicle and Echo" last year.
Your very sincerely, Stan T. Herbert