Website of the Laceby History Group

Old Laceby by Perry Herrick

OLD LACEBY - Written by Perry Herrick up to 1944
(Taken from a handwritten account)

In the first place, I think you will all agree that Laceby is very pleasantly situated. I do not think many people realise that the actual village itself lies on the hillside. When you walk say from Stockwell to the top of Cooper Lane hill, you are on the rise all the time. It may not be quite as steep as Irby Hill, but I should say it is nearly as high. It appears to me that in the old days (beyond a few scattered farms such as Mr Isaacs', Mr Curtis', Mr Clayton's and Park House), the village actually lay in Old Chapel Lane, Stockwell, Austin Garth and Seed Piece area. The population was about 600.

The Cropper Estate lay on the west side of Front Street or High Street (as it is now called). The site of the old hall was on the brow of the hill near Mr Thornton's House, and there was a carriage drive through to Caistor Road. Mr Stephens' blacksmith's house was one of the lodges, and there was another similar one on the opposite side, only it was an old Parlour house. I remember it myself! An old friend of mine, Mr John Rowson (his daughter was an old friend of my wife's), and we used to spend quite a lot of time at their home . He often used to talk about the Old Hall, he said in his boyhood days there was a big wall down the High Street from the stable yard, (Mr Field's Farm Yard), and beyond that was a planting and the grounds around the Hall. I understand that eventually the old hall was burnt down. The estate was cut up into small parcels of about two to three roods in 1841 and sold by auction, (I am referring to the Front Street) . I have seen the sale bills, and they are very interesting. It would be about that time that Cemetery Lane was made. There is no doubt that Mr Clack's house and land, the old sand pit and the present cemetery would be part of the estate.

I often think that if they had had a Town Planning Scheme in those days, we should have had a much pleasanter High Street than we have now. Rather higgledy piggledy don't you think? The houses stand back, and outbuildings have been allowed to be built out to full extent. Referring back to Old Laceby, I was reading the other day some amusing notes of Laceby in 'Ye biryde of Gryme ' by the Reverend G Oliver DD, Rector of Grimsby in 1866. He says, "Sir Walter de la Launde of Laceby Hall was the implacable foe of the corporation of Grimsby . He kept a train of armed retainers who were the terror of the countryside, and were particularly obnoxious to the inhabitants of Grimsby. He held his court at Laceby with the priviledge of 'trying' and 'punishing' offenders by the ducking stool, the pit, the pillory and the gallows". The family remained at Laceby until the 14th century, and memory of the last branch was transmitted to posterity by a monumental stone in the Chancel of Laceby Church, inscribed 'Willis Launde died 20th August 1424'.

The chief landowners in later days were Mr G Brooks, Little Laceby, Mr Harnies, The Rookery and the Limes Farm. The Beatniffs (Mr Curtis' Farm) - the oldest house in Laceby, I believe is dated 1665. The hall at Oaklands was built in 1874 by Mr Long, a retired timber merchant. Mr Long did not live long enough to enjoy his retirement. His son, Mr Richard Long, also died in the prime of life. His mother, Mrs Long, lived to a good old age, and Miss Long also lived to a grand old age. She was a very gracious lady, and left several benefactions to Laceby and its church. We must not forget Mr David Field who was the village Squire, Magistrate, County Councillor, Rural District Councillor, Chairman of the Parish Council and Church Warden for 54 years. He died in 1933; in his Will he left £200 for the church hall. He was a very good Chairman. I had the pleasure of being Secretary under him for many years.

I would like to mention the Old Mill owned by Mr John Dickinson. It was a five sail mill, a good landmark, and I believe most people were sorry to see it disappear. It was set on fire, and of course it acted like a flue and made a tremendous blaze: they were glad to send for the fire engine (1919).

Celebrities

Of course Laceby had its celebrities; there was a Mr John Atkinson whom they called 'Gentleman John'. It was said he was renowned for lying. One day he said he saw an old hare in his stack yard, and he fetched his gun and bent it across his knee, and put it round the stack, let go and shot him right through the head, as clean as a whistle. He would tell you a yarn like that, and stare you in the face without blinking.

There was another Mr Wentworth whom they called 'Bright Eye'. A tall, stark, stern man, but wonderfully witty and sharp tongued. The Rector, Mr Edmund Knight was out for a walk one day and met him. The Rector said "Good morning Bright Eye". "I say, why do they call you Bright Eye?" "A funny name isn't it?" Hr Wentworth replied, "No funnier than Knight in the daytime!" He stalked on and left Mr Knight convulsed with laughter.

Your humble servant arrived in Laceby on 12th November 1895. When I arrived in Grimsby I was directed to the Bull Ring, and was conveyed hence in a carrier's cart. I began to wonder where I was going to. We left the Bull Ring at 12.30 pm and arrived in the High Street at 1.15 pm.

I was a Baker and Confectioner by trade, and came out for experience but I found out they only baked a very small quantity of bread (Nearly everyone baked their own bread in those days). The trade was in flour and offals. I told Mr Graham I was afraid it was not what I wanted and I was all for going home again, but eventually he persuaded me to try it for a month, and I am still here! However, the longer I stayed, the better I liked the village life. I soon made many friends, and within a few days they had me bell-ringing , and I joined the choir on Advent Sunday 1895.

It was nearly all bed and work in those days, but I always found time to spend an hour or two at the Reading Room. I have spent many happy hours there; it was very much alive in those days, when you bear in mind there were no buses nor were there any cinemas to go to. We had to be content to make our own pleasures, and I can assume we were a very happy crowd in those days.

There were three carriers at that time - Mr Pratt, Mr Grimoldby and Mr Cater. Messrs Pratt and Grimoldby left at 9 o-clock in the morning and 4 o-clock in the afternoon. Mr Cater only made one journey a day; he left at 9.30 am. It was a slow job, especially in winter-time. You were ready for a hot rum by the time you arrived in Grimsby.
The harvest of 1896 was very wet and difficult. I remember seeing stooks of corn out at Christmas-time. Of course, you will bear in mind that it was nearly all hand-work. A slow job. 1897 was 'Diamond Jubilee Year'; we had a wonderful time. A clock was subscribed for, and placed in the church tower. The opening was performed by Mr George Doughty MP, (afterwards Sir George Doughty), a public tea was provided, and sports and bonfires etc. An unforgettable day!

Laceby was well served with trades-people in those days. We were the only bakers, but there were five other good shops. Mr Cook at the Post Office, Mr Barr in the Square, Mr Pratt, Mr Grimoldby, Mr Landers and Mr Tollerton. Mr Cook was a qualified chemist, and succeeded Mr Horace Watson who was, and still is famous for his 'Watson's Family Pills'. 1 remember the old gentleman very well. Mr Barr occupied the shop I have now, (1 believe 1 am right in saying it was in the family for over 70 years). Mr Tollerton did not stay long; he was succeeded by Mr T Button, who built up a very successful cycle business. There were three butchers' shops; Mr Keyworth, Mr Tong and Mr Dan Watson (Pork Butchers). Mr Wingate was the sadler, succeeded by our old friend Mr C Watson. Two blacksmiths, Mr Leeson and Mr Stephenson (grandfathers to the present owners), and Mr Allison the builder. Mr Allison did considerable business, especially for Lord Yarborough, and was quite a public man. He was County Councillor, member of the RDC, and succeeded Mr Field as Chairman of the Parish Council. He died in the prime of life and was very greatly missed.

Mr Charles Pawson was the carpenter and wheelwright, and Mr George Keal was the joiner, (they both exercised the right to put you away if you so desired). I should also mention Mr John Drury, Agricultural Engineer, who built up a considerable business at the crossroads. He employed a number of men. In those days, each village with a Parish Council was served by two overseers and an assistant overseer. I was co- opted onto the Parish Council in 1910, and in 1912 I was appointed assistant overseer and clerk to the Parish Council, collector of rates, and I had to compile the voting lists and was responsible for the cemetery. So with my business, church work and public work, my hours were pretty full. When the 1914 War began, I was made a special constable, and retired in 1942. The War caused a tremendous upheaval. within a few hours we had the West Riding Regiment stationed in the village. Every available building was filled with troops. They were a very nice lot of fellows, very musical. We had some rare times at church, often as many as twelve men in the choir. We made many friends. Shortly afterwards a large camp was built at Riby, and was occupied by the Manchester Regiment, who were there until the end of the War. All able-bodied men were called out from Laceby, Bradley, lrby and Aylesby. They were stationed in different places in half-dozens with their picks, shovels and crowbars, to raise obstructions in case of invasion. Mr Field was in charge, and I was his understudy. I often used to wonder what would have happened if 'Gerry' had come. I guess we would all have run like rabbits. The nights were very wearing. We had to see that all the men were at their posts, and we used to spend hours watching 'Gerry' bombing Hull from zeppelins. You could see them plainly from Cooper Lane.

I well remember we hopped out of bed pretty quickly one Saturday morning about 5 o-clock. They were bombing Beelsby. The Rector, Mr Sheldo, (who was taking duty for Mr Knight whilst he was a Padre in the Army), was taking the service at Laceby the following morning. The reverend gentleman had had a severe shock; the family had spent the night in the cellar, and the poor old chap looked very subdued. We were growing very War weary when suddenly the Armistice came along. 11th November 1918 was a wonderful day; we shall not easily forget it.

Owing to business reasons, I retired from the post of assistant overseer in 1921, and eventually it was taken over by the Grimsby rate collectors. They found it inconvenient to deal with Parish matters, so I was appointed Clerk to the Council in 1928, and I held the post until 1944. Special Note Revising Barrister
In the old days before the advent of Parish Councils, the country districts were governed more or less by the Board of Guardians , and there would be two overseers in Laceby , who would be responsible for the highways and collecting of rates, the appointment of the Parish Constable, and also for the relief of the poor and the general business of the Parish. When the Parish Council Act came into force in 1894, the highways were taken over by the Rural District Councils, but the collection of rates and Burial Board were still the responsibility of the overseers. However, the actual work of the overseers was done by an assistant overseer with a paid salary, and in the case of a Parish like Laceby this was a very onerous job too. In addition to the collection of rates, he was responsible for the revising of the electoral roll each year. I once got a good dressing down from the Revising Barrister which I shall not forget. In those days Laceby, Waltham, Humberston and Great Coates were in the Grimsby Parliamentary Borough, and the owners of property were entitled to a vote in the Brigg Division. This entailed two separate lists, and I had to attend the Court each year to have my revised lists confirmed.

In 1914 I had completed my lists, and was summoned to attend the Court in the usual way. I was summoned for Monday at 1O o-clock for the Brigg lists and Tuesday for the Laceby lists. You know what Legal Notices are; I had not read mine as carefully as I should have done, and was prepared for Tuesday.

On Monday afternoon I was down at Grimsby; I arrived home about 5.30 pm. My wife told me that I was wanted at Grimsby Town Hall at once with my lists. I was flabbergasted! I jumped on my bike and was in the Court room by 6 o-clock, feeling very small I can tell you . The Court was packed to the doors. The Liberals had a new agent, and he was objecting to everything and everybody right and left. The Revising Barrister was as mad as a hatter, and I got the brunt of it. You can imagine that: Mr Cullum saw me enter the door, and beckoned me to him, and shortly after someone called out Laceby. The Revising Barrister swung round to me, "Where were you this morning?" Of course, I made my apologies and said I had made an error as to the date. He replied, "We do not allow for errors here, you held up the Court this morning, and I can fine you £5 if I am so disposed." "Stand down, and I will deal with you tomorrow." They went through my lists, which only took about three minutes, and I was glad to get out, much to the amusement of the Court.
The next morning I was there on time, and I had not been in the Court many minutes before I was sent for to see the Revising Barrister privately. He treated me like the gentleman he was . He could see that it was a genuine error on my part, and he was sorry he had been rather rough with me.

So they dealt with my lists and let me go, and that was the end of that episode. The laugh is against me I know, but I am often amused when I think of it.
The rates during my time were 2s 4d in the pound (Winter season), and 2s 8d in the Summer season. In 1920 and 1921 they crept up to 3s Od and 3s 6d in the pound, which we thought a terrible lot of money.