Owen Balls, born in 1925, lived with his family in Chapel Road and indeed they were devout chapel-goers. He lived in Weston all his life, attending the village school at Church End and marrying a local girl in St Mary’s. On his death, Owen Balls’ family donated his papers to Tim Cockerill and Roger Whitehead’s archive of village history. These are a selection that tell his story.
Owen Balls remembers:
Our home was 17th century…we had an open fire with an oven & the door next to the fireplace had to be ‘set on the jar’ so the fire didn’t smoke into the room especially if the wind was blowing the wrong way. Behind the door there was a ladder & at the top a wooden platform which we stepped onto to get to the big bedroom. Underneath was a cupboard where the best china was kept. The bedroom ceiling came down to the floor either side & a step up led us to the small bedroom over the scullery which was a wooden building attached to the main house.
Each of the 3 cottages had a large space outside & in ours there was an old pigsty. We all had room for potatoes, coal and wood etc, & an earth toilet emptied each week. The middle one had a bread oven used by all three houses and a copper – the flue went up the bread oven. There was a row of wood & tile buildings at the back on the edge of a large stream, which carried water from the fields, ending up at Horseshoe Lane into a tributary of the Stour.
Our allotment garden was along the road and we paid 2 shillings for that. Dad and Jot also had a further bit of land on the other side of the Chapel and they grew barley to feed the pig. When the Six Mile Bottom Estate was sold, we were all given the opportunity to buy our houses for £150. No chance, we were living on £1.50s a week.
Chapel Road in 1930
The doctor came through the village twice a week and you put your red handkerchief outside if you wanted to see him, put a white one on your gate and the bus would stop and wait for you.
Miss Carter the Head Mistress lived in a room at the blacksmiths at the Reading Room corner with Mr and Mrs Norden – nearly every blacksmith in Cambridgeshire was called Norden – I loved to watch him shoeing horses and putting irons on tires with a big fire outside.
I was church organist and used to get to church three quarters of an hour before the service. On cold days, the first thing was to clear and make up the fire down under a grating in the centre of the floor. You lifted the grating and went down on a three-step ladder. Twenty minutes before, I used to chime the bells.
Maureen and I married on 28th March 1959. We met after my friend Brian Smith came to St Marys where I played the organ for the service at 11.15 and afterwards we went down the road to see his cousin who lived next to Maureen. I asked him to see her and tell her I’d like to meet her after Church after evensong. We went round West Wratting and back to her home, we saw each other during the week several times, and we got engaged on Saturday a week later! We’ve been together 52 years with no regrets.
Entry in the parish records of the marriage of Owen Balls and Maureen Garrod, March 28 1959
Back row: Uncle Joshua (Jot), Aunts Matilda and Mary
Front row: Grandad Arthur and Granny Elizabeth, Dad Arthur Eugene