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Monday, 25 April 2016

A-Z: I Remember ....Village Life


What is your image of a typical English VILLAGE?    - Village green and maypole, surrounded by cottages, church  school and pub?  

Well, that describes where I lived in my teens in a village  with the lovely sounding name of Upper Poppleton - try saying the name out  aloud quickly!!  It lies 4 miles west of York on the west bank of the River Ouse, with its neighbouring village of Nether Poppleton.
Upper Poppleton Green with the Maypole.

The name is derived from popel (pebble) and tun (hamlet, farm) and means "Pebble Farm" because of the gravel bed upon which the village was built. The village was mentioned in both the Domesday Book and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the Battle of Marston Moor in the English Civil War was fought nearby.

                         Our house. 

My own memories  of Poppleton are of the village railway station, the  fetes on the Green - and yes, dancing round the maypole;  fancy dress parades, taking part in Girl Guide activities  (Scarlet Pimpernel patrol) and the foxhunt meeting there at New Year.

Unfortunately I have hardly any photographs of that time.   Right is my brother winning a prize in a fancy dress competition as a Yeoman of the Guard (Beefeater).  It  was a testimony to my mother's creative  skills - adapted from a red suit of hers, my 1950's waspy belt and my father's war medals.  I  cannot imagine how my brother ever agreed to wear tights dyed red and rosette garters.   

Church was an important feature  in our family life.   I was a member of the choir, along with my father,  and had my first experience of the  pleasure of singing anthems, including excerpts from Handels' "Messiah .  Goodness knows what it sounded like performed by a small village choir, but choral singing has remained one of my great loves.   

I was confirmed at All Saints Church, by the Archbishop of York, Michael Ramsey - his visit was a major event for our small village and he was an imposing figure remembered from his key part in the Queen''s Coronation and he  laterbecame Archbishop of Canterbury.  

All Saints, Church, Upper Poppleton
St Everilda's Church at Nether Poppleton was a beautiful  much older little church, situated at the end of the  cul de sac of Church Lane. The church is one of only two dedicated to the seventh century Saxon saint, which suggests that it was founded about that time or soon afterwards.  I recall  some lovely carved Elizabethan kneeling figures in  the tiny chancel  and just wish now that  I had photographs of them. 
St Everilda's Church at Nether Poppleton

We only lived four years in Upper Poppleton before moving on again with my father's work - this time to Edinburgh.  But I remember the feeling of being part of a village community and it was here at my school that my love of history crystallised, remaining  with  me ever since.

The Village Gala was the focal event of the calendar where we earlier lived near Blackpool in Lancashire.  All the surrounding  villages had the their annual gala day, when the local band led the Rose Queen in procession with her maids of honour and retinue to a field where she was crowned Queen by some local worthy, followed by dancing displays  games, stalls, craft competitions, refreshment tents - and sports.  

This is a picture of the junior dancers at  the VILLAGE GALA of Staining, near Blackpool, around 1950, and I am the little girl kneeling on the left of the front row. . 

These dresses were in apple green satin with silver cardboard headdresses and I remember other years wearing peach satin and yellow taffeta. For me, the dress was always destined to be my party dress for the year. I always wanted to be one of the bigger girls who danced with garlands.

The worst aspect was the torture the night before of having my hair put into rags, in the hope I would end up with ringlets the next day. 

After the dancing, a quick change into shorts for the races.   The egg & spoon   and bean bag and potato  races were for the "little ones".  More energetic versions were leapfrog races, sack races, wheelbarrow races and three legged races.  Do these still take place,  or, as I suspect, have they fallen foul of the current  "health and safety" regime?  I certainly remember plenty of thrills and spills.   The climax of the day was a tug of war competition for the boys and men - and afterwards a weary walk home.

Looking back, this was not long after the war, with people still having to put up with rationing, but the gala days were a great tribute to community efforts, and my mother, as the local dressmaker, was heavily involved in making the dresses, headdresses and crepe paper flowers.


More V's
How did you spend VACATIONS (or,  as we would say in Britain,  Holidays) ? 

What VALUES did you grow up with in your family life?  


In Case You Missed

A-Z Challenge 2016 Theme Revealed:      I Remember......Memories of Childhood

S - Speccy Four Eyes + School, Sports, Sundays, Student Days and the Space RAce   
T - Toys + Treats, TV, Theatre and Technology
U - Uniforms  

Copyright © 2016 - Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved



  1. With apologies - I have heard there were problems with the links and with making comments in my last post U for Uniforms. In the Blogger draft, the links all work, but somehow I cannot highlight anything or edit to make changes, so i have no idea what is going on.

    I have posted V for Village Life and that seems OK, apart from the odd spacing and font size which has bedeviled me on Blogger in recent months.

    Do e-mail me if you have any problems in reading and commenting on my posts.The feedback means a lot to me. Thank you. susanpdonaldson@btinternet.com

  2. I love this post. And now I'm going to spend the rest of the evening saying "Upper Poppleton." "Nether Poppleton" just isn't as much fun.

  3. I decided to follow a few more posts, even at this late stage, as some of my regulars have stopped posting. I found your site when you commented on another family memoir in Victoria, Australia. I am doing a family memoir too, also based in Australia. In fact as I prepare my Y for Yerrinbool I am thinking how it contrasts to your village of Upper Poppleton. I was fortunate enough to spend a year in England in 2004 exchange teaching. every weekend we explored the countryside and the wonderful villages. If you want to check out my A to Z blog it is called The Curry Apple Orchard and can be found at argonautsite.wordpress.com

  4. What fun! We lived in a small village and we had a Spring Fair, which involved selling of crafts the women made all winter, a parade and costumes, and games for the kids - a Fall Tombola, which was like carnival games and there was a fish pond for the kids and carnival eats - and a Winter Carnival, which involved snow sculptures, a skating parade around the rink (my mom made us snowman costumes),snowmobile rides, games for kids in the snow and lunch in the hall. Everyone knew everyone and it was great fun.

  5. You painted such a picture of village events, but I can see as a teenager you might want to spread your wings to have a taste of city life.


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