When people thought of autumn, they thought of Harvest Festival. The Churches would be decorated and everyone would contribute something from the garden or allotment. Bakers would bake a special wheatsheaf loaf, and the food was given to hospitals and to the sick. The food given was more decorative in the past than now, with all manner of fresh vegetables rather than the tins that many people give nowadays.
At home, October meant making chutneys and the late wines from one’s own produce. The gardens would be full of chrysanthemums being cared for lovingly before the autumn flower shows which took place in many villages including Timsbury. This was the time to get your knitting out in the evenings, and for firewood to be chopped ready for the cold weather. This done, the family could sit down together and enjoy ‘snakes and ladders’, card games, dominoes or draughts. People went to bed at 10 o’clock as a rule, and got up at 7 o’clock, which was less wasteful of heat and light.
On the farms, Michaelmas was the time when tenancies would change over, and also around this time sheep fairs would take place, as the farmers would often sell some sheep to save winter feeding.
Some people would travel to Midsomer Norton for the Carnival or Priddy Fair, both of which happened in autumn. ‘Travelling’ there consisted of walking or cycling, of course, so for many it was more comfortable to stay at home. Life was more sheltered then, as people didn’t go out as often as the young do today. Several ladles could remember a time when girls weren’t expected to go out without a chaperone.
Halloween didn’t attract much attention, though a pumpkin lantern would appear in many houses. Guy Fawkes was a family event. Fireworks were less powerful, and the Father of the family would take care on them, so there was less danger of accidents. Children didn’t have money to spend on buying fireworks for themselves and besides, the main pleasure of Guy Fawkes Night was the bonfire and the baked potatoes.
Reproduced from ‘Reflections of Old Timsbury’ by kind permission of The Cheshire Home.